My take: Inspector General bill returns with backers from both ends of spectrum


A bill calling for the formation of an independent inspector general’s office has returned, this time with a wide range of support.

The office would not duplicate the work of other agencies but would be able to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse of government resources. It would not have enforcement powers but would refer its findings to law enforcement or the appropriate regulatory agency for review.

Better yet, the office might prevent some from starting questionable practices in the first place. If memory serves, one of the defense team’s arguments in the recent case of former state Auditor Kathy McGuiness over nepotism allegations was that “everyone was doing it.”

The proposal has been introduced before but has not advanced. At one point, then-House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said the bill needed more study.

The need for the office became crystal clear with the McGuiness matter. The former Auditor was later convicted of two misdemeanors, one of which was dismissed on appeal.


Within Delaware’s Executive branch, the Attorney General’s office represents cabinet officers in most legal matters, but in the Auditor’s case had to also serve as prosecutor.

As noted in this space from time to time, the need for the office was demonstrated years ago in the findings of a report authored by Delaware Chief Justice Norman Veasey. The report outlined cases of corruption and insider relationships in the Delaware government.

Some have questioned the need for the office, given the state auditor’s and other offices’ powers.

In most cases, the auditor’s officer is limited to probing the finances of state agencies and schools on a largely scheduled basis, with some claiming that its findings are akin to the fire company showing up after the house burns down. Resources have remained limited and have worsened due to a shortage of accountants.

The Inspector General’s office would be better able to handle whistleblowers and other complaints earlier in the process, which might bolster the case for a more aggressive auditing effort.

Will the bill break the pattern of head-nodding support, little action, and the built-in “not invented here” bias?

This time around, the bill is sponsored by State Sen. Laura Spurgeon, D-north Wilmington, a member of an influential group of female House and Senate members. Signing on as sponsors and co-sponsors are both progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.

The broad base of support is encouraging but will require the backing of leadership in both houses.

The bill is a work in progress, with the expenses of the office not yet calculated. Still, it’s a good bet that the office would more than pay for itself in reducing corruption and questionable spending.

The Delaware Coalition for Open Government continues to support the formation of the office and has urged members to call or email their senator and representative. The business community should do the same. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.