Rachel Leven, ​the ​BGA’s Policy Manager, testified ​on May 3, 2018, before ​the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board ​in support ​o​f​ an Inspector General. The BGA’s Policy and Civic Engagement team supports creating an Inspector General and Leven presented best-practice recommendations that will help ensure oversight is truly independent and effective. Her testimony follows.

Good afternoon commissioners, I’m Rachel Leven, policy manager for the Better Government Association. And I’m excited to be here.

Creating an Inspector General (IG) at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is a fiduciary imperative. Getting it right is critical, so we appreciate the thought that you are putting into creating the office. You’ve heard in the past from Will Fletcher who is the Park District’s IG and President of the Association of Inspectors General.  And, I was glad to hear Mr. Blanchard’s comments today.

Inspectors general don’t just fight corruption, they help improve operations and save money – potentially identifying millions in missed revenue or potential savings.

The BGA’s Policy Unit and Civic Engagement team has closely researched IGs and we have put together best-practice recommendations for this board that will ensure you create effective oversight that is independent, legally empowered, and adequately funded.

The Illinois Public Interest Research Group also has reviewed and supports these recommendations. In brief, in order to meet best practices and create effective and professional oversight, the BGA’s Policy and Civic Engagement team recommends:

  • The scope of the OIG’s work must include all MWRD activities and cover both misconduct and inefficiency.
  • The independence of the agency’s leadership and budget must be protected. This includes such things as a fixed term of office for an individual IG or Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) and a guaranteed minimum budget.
  • An IGA that provides oversight through an existing OIG should ensure minimum staffing levels at the shared office.
  • Final reports should be made publicly available, summary reporting must occur at least quarterly, and recommendations must require response from the appropriate authority – be it commissioners or staff.
  • The jurisdiction, authority, and access of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) must encompass the full district, in all its activities, and cooperation should be required by all those within the OIG’s jurisdiction. The OIG also should be allowed to accept all complaints, including anonymous ones.

I also want to talk specifically about anonymous complaints because I’m seeing that’s a concern from a lot of the commissioners here today. Your best defense against ill will in complaints is not dis-allowing anonymous complaints — it’s having a good IG. A good IG can identify what is a founded complaint from what is unfounded. That’s the way you protect yourself, not by saying no anonymous complaints.

Oversight that is built according to these recommendations will result in a professional oversight that helps ensure the MWRD is and remains accountable and efficient in its governance, through programmatic change and by identifying misconduct and other problems before they become systemic issues. Put simply, a good inspector general will support and amplify the good work you do.

I am happy to answer any questions you have about these recommendations. More details are included in the handout and online. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and share these recommendations today.