Inspector General’s Statement Regarding Benchmarks to Good Government Oversight

Opening Statement of the Inspector General, the Joint Committee on Workforce Development and Audit; Committees, Rules and Ethics Opening Statement of the Inspector General, December 14, 2015

Chairs and Members of the Committee on Workforce Development and Audit and the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics:

Good morning Chairman O’Connor and Chairman Harris and all the members of the Committee on Workforce Development and Audit and the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics. Thank you for the opportunity to speak this morning on the important matter of establishing effective City Council oversight.

Inspectors general are entrusted with fostering and promoting accountability and integrity in government. To meet this obligation OIGs must be empowered to identify, prevent, and tackle fraud, waste, and corruption. Empowerment means,

  • Independence: Establishing appointment and term requirements, ensuring budget protection, and setting up the office as a permanent independent department.
  • Authority: Giving OIGs the power to audit and investigate matters according to their independent rules and regulations.
  • Power: Enabling OIGs’ work with power of subpoena, timely access to all relevant records, and mandated reporting requirements.
  • Confidentiality: Assuring OIGs can maintain appropriate confidentiality of records and the identities of individuals who provide information.

In 1989, this body established the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General with enabling legislation that provided it with structural independence and many of the powers needed to bring effective oversight to the City of Chicago. As our office has evolved, the understanding of what real oversight requires and the benefits it brings to the City—both substantive and reputational—is clear to us, to the City, and I hope to all of you. It is a benchmark for effective government oversight. Unfortunately, the current ordinance 2-55, which established the Legislative Office of Inspector General (LIG), does not meet the same benchmark for effective government oversight. And, while I know some in the room regard the challenges of establishing oversight under the current version of 2-55 as, at least in part, personal I can assure you that the problem is structural and the shortfalls would exist regardless of who holds the position of Legislative Inspector General.

Among other things, the current LIG ordinance,

  • Fails to establish a budget floor which would protect LIG’s budget from those it oversees, thus undermining its independence and structural stability;
  • Requires LIG to seek permission from the Board of Ethics before opening any investigation;
  • Fails to support LIG with the necessary power to access documents and records; and
  • Eliminates LIG’s ability to conduct confidential investigations, thereby undermining the ability to follow evidence of misconduct to all of the places it may lead.

This status quo is not acceptable relative to best practices. It has resulted in a situation in both fact and appearance that, beyond undermining public trust and confidence, actually promotes public mistrust of this body and, as a result, City government as a whole. I therefore thank the chairs of these two committees for holding this joint subject matter session. It is my hope that this session will enable us once and for all to rectify a quarter-century old shortfall in effective comprehensive oversight of City government. I welcome your questions.