End annual efforts to stop work of IG

The American Press

Louisiana’s inspector general shouldn’t have to fight to keep his office open every time the Legislature meets, and one legislator hopes to end the attacks. Lawmakers have tried twice since 2012 to eliminate the government watchdog office.

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, is sponsoring House Bill 443, a proposed constitutional amendment that would lock IG funding into the state budget.

The bill would fund the office at its 2015 level of $2 million and would increase it according to the Consumer Price Index.

Voters will have an opportunity on Oct. 14 to approve the amendment if the bill makes it through the Legislature. The measure, approved by two committees, is awaiting action in the full House.

“Do you think it’s proper for the government watchdog to have to ask for its funding from the government? The answer is categorically no,” Stokes said. “This office may be funded at the moment, but it is one big investigation away from having someone out of our 144 legislators try and defund it.”

The Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity says if inspector generals are to fulfill their responsibilities, they must be independent and able to investigate freely within the scope of their authority.

“In the three-year period leading up to the 2016 budget process, the Louisiana IG worked many successful criminal cases, had a 96 percent conviction rate on federal criminal cases and averaged more than five times the amount of its state general fund appropriations in fraud and corruption identified,” the center said.

Critics continue to insist the office duplicates work of the state attorney general and legislative auditor. But IG Stephen Street said the cases he handles incur the wrath of people in the Legislature and that elected officials are reluctant to investigate others holding public office.

Stokes made one of the best arguments for protecting the IG funding. She said the amount is a “mere .0007 percent” of the state budget and creates a truly independent agency.

Legislators need to quit playing games with this office and go along with Stokes’ plan to end the almost annual attempts to wipe it out.

End annual efforts

to stop work of IG

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