BATON ROUGE, La. - The state House has already taken away the inspector general's $1.7 million budget. If the senate fails to restore the funding, and shuts down the office, Inspector General Stephen Street said it will be a black eye for Louisiana, a resounding message to the nation.
"I think it sends a message that we're not serious about fighting fraud and corruption," Street said.
State Representative Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, led the drive in the House to take away the funding. He said the inspector general's office duplicates other investigative agencies.
"Now we have state police, we have the attorney general's office and we have the legislative auditor's office," said Harrison.
But, government watchdog agencies and the inspector general disagree.
"We are the only corruption unit in the state that is set up to be independent by statute," Street said.
"It's the only office whose sole mission is to root out inefficiency and waste in government," Janet Howard, the CEO of the Bureau of Governmental Research, said.
Street said last fiscal year his office uncovered $3.2 million worth of fraud and corruption - almost twice as much as his whole budget.
"When you're effective, people are going to come after you. That's just the way it is," Street said.
Harrison wants the inspector general's office defunded because he argues that the inspector general is not doing his job as well as he should be.
"I was more interested in what are we getting? Are we having investigations come to fruition? 311 investigations - no one ever got indicted. No one," Harrison said.
Street said that's "an absolute falsehood" and listed cases producing results:
- A Southern University professor and IT director indicted for defrauding the school out of $157,000
- A guilty plea from an attorney accused of stealing $1.6 million for a police retirement system
- A church pastor accused of misappropriating $472,000 arrested for felony theft.
Skeptics have questioned whether the drive to defund the inspector general is fueled by the agency's investigation of State Fire Marshall Butch Browning's handling of FEMA funds and other issues.
"Absolutely not. I'm on (the) appropriations (committee). If my job isn't to find waste and to take that wasteful dollars and put it to the good needs of the people of the state," Harrison said.
In the meantime, the governor's commissioner of administration said Bobby Jindal is working with senate leaders to restore the inspector general's funding.
"The governor is supporting the inspector general's office 100 percent. There's no doubt about it," Paul Rainwater said.