HARRISBURG — The Office of Inspector General would have greater authority and independence to investigate and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars under legislation approved by the Senate with strong bipartisan support today.
Senate Bill 527, sponsored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), would establish the Office of Inspector General in statute. The office currently operates under Executive Order and could be eliminated at any time. Aument’s bill would broaden the office’s authority to bring criminal charges, issue subpoenas and investigate and eliminate fraud in human services programs.
“Too often, lawmakers spend too much time talking about how to spend money instead of discussing ways to save money,” Aument said. “The Inspector General is one of the first lines of defense in preventing our tax dollars from being wasted and abused. Ensuring this office can continue to operate without any undue influence is the best way to make certain our tax dollars are used wisely and that state government is operated in an appropriate manner.”
Similar legislation was approved by the General Assembly last year, but Governor Wolf vetoed the measure.
In response to the veto, Aument worked with stakeholders to address most of Governor Wolf’s concerns regarding the bill. The Senate State Government Committee also held a hearing earlier this year to gather input on how the bill could be improved and approved an amendment that included both Republican and Democrat ideas.
Several measures were stripped from the prior version of the bill, including a requirement for the Senate to confirm the governor’s nomination of the Inspector General. Instead, Senate Bill 527 now includes various components that promote the independence of the Inspector General’s Office.
For example, the Inspector General could not seek elected office during their tenure and would have to meet minimum qualification standards. Additionally, the legislation gives the Inspector General’s Office its own line-item appropriation and provides that the Inspector General may be removed by the governor for cause.
The Office of Inspector General would also be required to report to the General Assembly each year with information regarding investigations conducted and money saved and recovered by the office, providing valuable feedback to lawmakers on government programs and operations.
“I am proud to support an idea originally offered by Democrat Governor Bob Casey,” said Aument, referring to the Executive Order originally authored in 1987. “I am hopeful that with the compromises offered today in response to the Governor’s veto, we can move forward in a manner that promotes something everyone agrees with – that cheaters should never win.”
Representative Mindy Fee has authored identical legislation in the House of Representatives, House Bill 896.
Senate Bill 527 passed by a 37-12 margin. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420