- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

The D.C. Council is considering granting the D.C. inspector general's request for more power to ferret out fraud and waste, and independence from the mayor's office as the financial control board prepares to dissolve its oversight functions.
Inspector General Charles Maddox yesterday asked the council to dilute the mayor's authority over his office, institute penalties for obstructing investigations, and increase inspectors' police powers giving them the right to make arrests and carry firearms into neighboring jurisdictions.
"I am recommending legislative changes because I believe they would be particularly beneficial at a time when we are focusing on doing all we can to better address risks to the District in the post-control board years," Mr. Maddox told members of the council during a hearing on the issue.
Although the council previously modified the 1995 statute that created the 105-person office of the inspector general (OIG), so far no changes are as tough as those currently under consideration. If accepted, the modifications would make the District's OIG one of the most powerful in the country.
Among the proposals are:
Improving access to D.C. tax information.
Banning the mayor from interfering in investigations; eliminating his authority to hire or fire OIG personnel; and limiting his ability to remove an IG by requiring approval of two-thirds of the council.
Creating a group of law-enforcement officials to conduct background checks of contractors seeking to do business with the District.
Creating a mechanism to resolve D.C. agencies' disputes over OIG findings.
Expanding investigative powers to include the D.C. Housing Authority.
Creating of a system of clear, ethical guidelines for employees of the District.
Mr. Maddox told council members he is " optimistic that a fully equipped and independent IG office will enhance the District's ability to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and accountability in an environment of increased home rule."
D.C. Council members said they may grant some of what Mr. Maddox is asking in their effort to convince Congress that a strong IG will keep the city running smoothly after the control board sunsets in September.
"I am supportive in general of the proposals," said council Chairman Linda Cropp, a Democrat. "We want the D.C. government to function well. And I want more confidence. A good, strong IG's office will strengthen D.C. government as a whole."
But some council members want to see documented progress first.
"Expanded powers are something we should look at carefully," said at-large council member Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, adding that he is comfortable with the work the office has done so far.
Ward 3 council member Kathy Patterson, a Democrat, said she hasn't made up her mind. She rebuked the OIG in 1999 for moving too slowly to investigate the failure of the Department of Human Services to protect retarded adults in abusive group homes.
Because the OIG works in secrecy, it is difficult to gauge the extent of the office's success in rooting out fraud and corruption. Mrs. Patterson pointed to performance measures as a way to determine the office's success.
The inspectors do not confirm or release any information on investigations other than completed audits. They do refer cases to prosecutors for indictments, and some information is detailed in court files and in the agency's annual report.
For example, in fiscal 2000, the OIG performed 67 audits, saving the city almost $34 million. In that same period, the OIG closed 169 investigations, referred 58 cases to prosecutors and city attorneys and secured seven convictions.
In this region, only the District has a comprehensive and independent inspector general. Virginia recently instituted one each in the Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse. Maryland has one for the state Department of Human Resources while Baltimore has one for its Housing Authority. Montgomery County is the only county in the region with its own inspector.
Currently, fewer than 20 states have some form of an inspector general, according to the Association of Inspectors General, and New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia are among the few cities with inspectors.

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