History of The Inspector General
The Inspector General concept was invented by Louis XIV, the King of France. He first created inspectors general of the infantry and the cavalry in 1668, and then created inspectors general for geographic regions.
The inspectors general were relieved of all duties except the duty to inspect the Army and other government facilities. They had no directive authority; that is, they could not order anyone to do, or not do, anything. Last, they reported to the King directly, and to no one else.
Those three attributes remained the basis of inspectors general throughout history: (1) no duty but to inspect; (2) no directive authority; and, (3) reporting only to the leader.
The French example was adopted by the Prussian Army, and then spread to other European armies. Thus it was no surprise that the Continental Congress approved an Inspector General for the Revolutionary Army in December 1777.
A Prussian officer, Frederick von Steuben, was appointed Inspector General. He inspected army units and reported to General Washington as to the condition of the units, their training, and the competency of their officers. He also inspected contractors’ invoices and deliveries, reporting to General Washington when the Army was overbilled or received inferior goods. Many historians believe that von Steuben made a significant contribution, and that he and Washington were essential to American victory.
The U.S. Army has maintained an inspector general system ever since. In 1942, the Navy created the Naval Inspector General, and an inspector general was part of the U.S. Air Force when it was created in 1948.
Scandals with government soybean subsidies led to the creation of the first civilian office of inspector general at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1973. The office was established by merging and centralizing all of the individual audit and investigative offices within the department.
This experiment was successful and offices of inspector general were created at all U.S. cabinet departments by The Inspector General Act of 1978. Their mission was to prevent and detect fraud, and to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the programs and operations of their departments.
The 1988 amendments to The Inspector General Act created offices of inspector general at thirty smaller agencies such as the CIA, Federal Reserve Bank, and the Securities Exchange Commission among others.
The proliferation of offices of inspector general was driven by their success. The Cabinet Secretaries and Congress believed that, for the first time, they received objective and impartial information about government programs and problems. These offices also fought fraud, and conducted investigations that led to convictions.
Massachusetts established an Office of Inspector General in 1981, and various other states followed suit in later years. Cities also adopted the concept, as did disparate quasi-governmental organizations such as the Florida Lottery Commission.
With the support of the Mayor of New Orleans, the City Council placed the matter on the ballot, and in 1996, voters approved a charter provision to establish an Office of Inspector General. The implementing ordinance was passed in 2006, and the Office became functional in 2008.
The New Orleans Office of Inspector General has the same missions as the 60 or so federal OIGs: to prevent and detect fraud and abuse and to promote efficiency and effectiveness in City operations.
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