A day after a Louisiana House committee voted to strip the Louisiana Office of State Inspector General of its entire budget, the head of the office expressed his disapproval of the move.
Inspector General Stephen Street described the elimination of the office as a "black eye" for the state because there is such a history of corruption. The office is an independent watchdog that works to root out fraud and corruption on behalf of taxpayers.
"It's really no surprise that an agency that is as aggressive as we are, that is effective as we are would be targeted for defunding," Street said in a written release. "It is ironic with the reputation we have in this state, the history we have for corruption, really going back generations, that Louisiana public officials would defund the independent agency dedicated to rooting out public corruption."
The House Appropriations Committee advanced a plan for the 2016-2017 fiscal year with a vote of 18-4 that would fully fund TOPS but leave almost everything else, including the IG office, with a cut. HB 1, which takes into account the state's $600 million shortfall, was proposed by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.
"It's impossible to do this job right without angering those in political circles. That's the whole reason the office was set up with strong protections to allow it to do the job without fear of political retribution. Eliminating OIG is shortsighted, and hopefully the Legislature will realize that," Street added.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is against eliminating the office. He expressed his feelings to those attending the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.
Records show federal criminal prosecutions from OIG investigations have a 96 percent conviction rate since 2012. Officials added some of the cases were against people who defrauded the state's film tax credit program for more than $9.7 million.
Street is scheduled to speak at Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, May 16. The meeting is held at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, 102 France St., The event starts at 11:30.