BGA Testifies For Inspector General For Chicago's Sewage District

For a governing body bigger than many Illinois cities and towns, the BGA told commissioners, creating an OIG is “an environmental and fiduciary imperative.”

Rachel L. Leven, BGA's policy manager, appeared before the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) Board of Commissioners on Thursday in support of the creation of an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the district.

MWRD manages the Chicago area’s wastewater system with a budget of more than $1.2 billion. It’s a government bigger than that of many cities and towns in Illinois. “For a governing body of its size and importance,” Leven told commissioners, creating an OIG is “an environmental and fiduciary imperative.”

Leven asked commissioners to “make it a priority to pass legislation and bring IG oversight to MWRD,” in the coming fiscal year, “with an inspector general that is independent from the district, legally empowered, and adequately funded.”

BGA investigation’s team and other journalists have uncovered a long history of corruption at MWRD and BGA’s policy team published an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times in September of 2017 further explaining the need for real and effective oversight of the district.


 

Rachel L. Leven’s testimony:

Public Testimony to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Hearing to Consider the 2018 Proposed Budget

December 7, 2017

Good afternoon, I’m Rachel Leven, Policy Manager for the Better Government Association.

Last summer, the Board of Commissioners discussed, for the first time in your history, the creation of an inspector general. This was a historic move toward oversight and transparency. For a governing body of your size and importance, setting up independent oversight should be a no brainer.

IGs maintain an organization’s most critical rules, fight corruption, and help improve operations and save money. IGs identify millions in missed revenue or potential savings through performance management audits and reviews.

The BGA’s policy team is no stranger to the fiscal pressure governing bodies throughout the state face and independent oversight requires investment. According to the City’s model, and a good rule of thumb, stand alone IG offices should typically be resourced at 0.1% of a government's overall budget. That is an investment that’s worth it and it’s an environmental and fiduciary imperative. IGs are an outside eye helping organizations improve their standards and operations. That benefits the government and the voting taxpayers.

I encourage you to see this through in 2018. Creating a fully empowered IG will help you and the district do your jobs better. It will also help build trust with the public as scandal upon scandal unfolds on the national stage and ethical, accountable government becomes an increasing concern.

As part of your consideration for the budget next year, make it a priority to pass legislation and bring IG oversight to MWRD with an inspector general that is independent from the district, legally empowered, and adequately funded.

Thank you, Commissioners, for your time.

About the Author

Rachel L. Leven

Rachel Leven is the BGA’s policy manager focusing on Chicago and Cook County. Before joining the BGA, Leven ran communications for the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG), a nationally renowned municipal oversight agency.