Ensuring the Public Trust at the Municipal Level: Inspectors General Enter the Mix
38 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2011 Last revised: 28 Jan 2014
Date Written: December 18, 2011
Although federal, state and local government officials are subject to applicable codes of ethical conduct and are under the jurisdiction of ethics enforcement agencies created pursuant to these laws, ethics oversight agencies are limited in the breadth and scope of covered activities. With an increase in reported allegations of corruption, particularly at the local government level, this article explores the addition of the audit function, through inspectors general, to ensure greater transparency and accountability of public officials.
The article begins with a very brief historical overview of the emergence of the inspector general concept in Europe and its adoption in the United States at the federal and state levels. The article continues with a focused examination of the reasons behind the creation of inspectors general at the municipal level and the various models or forms that have emerged in the establishment, jurisdiction, the operation of these offices and budget issues.
The next section examines the interplay between inspectors general, ethics commissions and law enforcement agencies. Consideration is then given to the cost-benefit analysis of the municipal inspector general, exploring whether the expense can be justified by the savings and other associated benefits. Finally, the article concludes with a recommendation that in the current era of scarce fiscal resources, especially at the local level, municipalities should consider whether the establishment of an inspector general office can assist in not only furthering a commitment to ethical government, but in identifying cost-savings for the locality.
Keywords: inspector general, ethics, corruption, government watchdog, fiscal oversight, government ethics
JEL Classification: K14, K23, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation