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Proposal to Create Inspectors General in Wisconsin

Supporters say a move to appoint inspectors general in 13 state agencies will help combat fraud, but clean government groups are calling it an invitation to corruption. Credit: GilDesign/iStockPhoto.com
Supporters say a move to appoint inspectors general in 13 state agencies will help combat fraud, but clean government groups are calling it an invitation to corruption. Credit: GilDesign/iStockPhoto.com
September 28, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – A bill is being circulated at the state capitol that would bypass the authority of the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau and instead place politically appointed inspectors general in 13 of the largest state agencies.

The bill’s Republican sponsors say the move would enhance the government's ability to investigate fraud, waste, abuse and inefficiencies in the agencies.

Rothschild, executive director of the watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign calls it an invitation to corruption.

"Part of this bill would allow any person in the state to complain to an inspector general that an action by one of these state agencies was adversely affecting their interests," he states.

Rothschild maintains this would give way too much influence to the political party in power, and cites a hypothetical example.

"If there's a businessman who's been giving to the party in power who then complains to the inspector general this state agency – say it's the DNR – is adversely affecting my interests, that inspector general can tell the DNR to back off," he points out.

The inspectors general would be appointed, rather than elected, to six-year terms, something Rothschild calls a power grab.

The Legislative Audit Bureau was created in 1965 as a non-partisan agency to be a watchdog to insure effective running of state government.

Rothschild says replacing the authority of non-political civil service employees with political appointees is dangerous.

"So you could put your cronies in there - people who'll do your bidding, who'll try to find your enemies in each agency or a program that you're detesting and have them try to get rid of that program with the pretext of going after fraud and abuse or inefficiencies," he explains.

Similar legislation to bypass the independent Legislative Audit Bureau was introduced several months ago, but withdrawn after a number of complaints. Rothschild says it's just one of many bad ideas that he thought were gone for good.

"We thought we defeated that in the summer – the Open Records scheme to hide legislators from the Open Records law – we thought we'd defeated that,” he states. “They want to turn the Superintendent of Public Education rather than a position we can vote for into an appointed position by the governor."

Rothschild says these ideas are bad public policy, no matter which party is in power.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI