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Friday, April 12, 2013

Rep. Larry Valencia wants the state to hire a corruption buster

“Inspector general is most efficient way to target fraud, waste”

Larry, with Rep. Donna Walsh
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton) held a press conference on Wednesday, April 10, on his legislation that would create the Office of the Inspector General – an independent way to promote good government and reduce waste, fraud, mismanagement and corruption.

For its small size, Representative Valencia said Rhode Island has seen more than its fair share of corrupt governmental practices. He pointed to the 2009 audit of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, which revealed losses of $75 million due to mismanagement in the state’s trash agency. However, the financial loss was not revealed until it was too late to prosecute anyone.

Under the provisions of Representative Valencia’s legislation (2013-H 5363), the Office of Inspector General would have subpoena and investigative powers to allow for the prosecution of potential wrongdoers in real-time, before the stature of limitations runs out. Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Sen. James C. Sheehan sponsor companion bills (2013-S 0266, 2013-S 0612) in the Senate.

The inspector general would be appointed by a majority vote of the governor, attorney general and general treasurer for one five-year term and would be selected without regard for political affiliation. This individual, who would be in charge of conducting investigations involving public expenditures, would need a demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, investigation or criminal justice administration.

Similar bills creating the Office of the Inspector General have been introduced in previous years as an effort to increase the transparency of state government and keep a watchful eye on taxpayer money.

 “I want to reduce the influence of money and special interest in government,” Representative Valencia said. “State officials and agencies should be held accountable for their actions. Taxpayers should be comfortably assured that state funds are going toward relevant purposes that seek to benefit the broader Rhode Island community.”

The proposed bill is modeled after a section of the general laws of Massachusetts, which established the Office of the Inspector General in 1981. This office led to the discovery of more than $100 million in overrun costs related to the Big Dig construction project. Since then, at least 17 other states have established such offices and have experienced savings and monetary recoveries that greatly outweigh the cost of maintaining the office.

“State government is still a large operation, and I think it’s absolutely necessary for us to have an office dedicated to targeting fraud and waste,” the representative said. “Rhode Islanders want an open, efficient and trustworthy government. We need this bill to remind the government that its job, first and foremost, is to serve the people rather than themselves.”

Cosponsors of the House bill include Representatives Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston), Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Jeremiah T. O`Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket).