BGR NOW: Revitalizing New Orleans’ Office of Inspector General

• Bureau of Governmental Research


As a nationwide search begins for New Orleans’ next inspector general, this report analyzes key components of the selection process and future oversight of the inspector general. It examines recent measures taken or proposed to improve each area and recommends additional improvements.

Recent problems within the New Orleans Office of Inspector General (OIG), including high staff turnover, internal disputes and the inspector general’s significant absences, led to the inspector general’s resignation in October. Now, the New Orleans Ethics Review Board (the Board) must find a new leader who can turn around the office’s performance and revitalize its mission of detecting and preventing fraud, waste and abuse, as well as promoting efficiency and effectiveness, in City of New Orleans government (City).

Finding the right leader will depend on the quality of the Board’s selection process. In reviewing City laws governing the process and the Board’s last search in 2017, BGR identified three important objectives for the current search:

  • Develop a Broad Pool of Candidates. Prospective applicants for the inspector general position must meet several legal requirements, and certain candidates cannot seek the job unless at least four years have passed since their time of service. This waiting period applies to former or current employees or elected officials of the City, City-funded governmental entities, the State of Louisiana, and its parishes, cities and other political subdivisions. To attract more candidates, the Board has asked the City Council to reduce the waiting period to two years, and eliminate it altogether for employees of other Louisiana inspector general offices who have at least two years of service. While BGR supports most of these changes, it is against reducing the waiting period for employees and officials of the City and City-funded governmental entities. Shortening the waiting period for these individuals, all of whom fall directly under the OIG’s authority to audit, investigate or evaluate, would increase the risk of conflicts of interest that could harm the office’s independence.
  • Conduct an Efficient and Effective Search. The Board plans to use a competitive process to hire a professional firm to assist with the search. It is also considering whether to create a formal committee to work with the firm to develop a shortlist of top candidates for full Board consideration. Both efforts would address deficiencies in the last selection process. Additionally, BGR urges the Board to carefully define the search firm’s scope and deliverables, and to create a process to evaluate and rank top candidates based on qualifications, experience, skill set and other relevant criteria.
  • Ensure a Transparent Search Process with Public Participation. The Board has not yet determined how the public will participate in the selection process, including accessing documents and providing input. A clear policy on these matters is necessary to support meaningful public engagement. The Board should also interview and evaluate the shortlist candidates during open meetings, limiting its use of closed executive sessions.

Improving Oversight. Once the Board appoints a new inspector general, it must oversee that person’s performance while respecting the independence of the OIG. The Board has relied primarily on external performance evaluations and the inspector general’s own periodic updates to inform its oversight role. However, informal complaints by OIG employees to Board members, rather than those mechanisms, brought to light the problems that led to the departure of the inspector general. The Board has acknowledged the need for a policy that enables OIG staff to report serious complaints about the inspector general confidentially to the Board. BGR’s report recommends the Board follow through on creating this policy.

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