COLUMBIA, SC — The man charged with finding fraud, waste and abuse in state government says he needs $530,000 to hire five investigators. But state lawmakers are hesitant to give it to him, concerned it might give him too much power.
“Your office scares me,” state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, told Inspector General Patrick Maley Tuesday. “I get concerned about little entities growing and having autonomy and not a hell of a lot of oversight, and the next thing you know there are witch hunts all over the place.”
Maley started work in June after the previous inspector general, George Schroeder, resigned because he said he did not have enough independence to run the office effectively.
Gov. Nikki Haley then signed a law that made the inspector general’s office a separate state agency with its own budget. In June, Haley appointed Maley, a 30-year FBI veteran, to the post. Maley is his own boss. His only job requirement is that he write a once-a-year report to the governor and Legislature about what he has been doing.
Maley has been working rent-free out of an office at the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. He inherited three employees and funding from the governor’s office.
Maley now is making his first budget request, intended to make his office truly independent. He is making that request in a year that lawmakers say they want to make big improvements to the state’s ethics laws.
“I’ve got to have a sufficient presence so that people sense that somebody is looking under the hood,” Maley said. “A big part of the inspector general’s role is to ... bring issues to light at a sufficient rate and significance so that the rest of government can look and say, ‘Hey, maybe we need to look at ourselves.’”
Asked if Maley will get the money he said he needs, Merrill said: “I don’t know. We’re going to have to think about it.”
“I know what they are trying to achieve, and I think that’s good,” said Merrill. “But I’m really kind of scared giving someone that much power. He doesn’t report to anyone.”
State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg, the only Democrat on the committee, said she supports giving Maley money to hire investigators.
“But I want to make sure there is clarity on who he answers to and that he is indeed autonomous,” she said. “Obviously, he has to answer to somebody. I mean, come on. This is government.”
Since taking over in June, Maley said he has received about 100 complaints on the inspector general’s hot line. He said he referred most of those complaints back to the affected state agency to handle.
But he said he also launched investigations into three allegations – including a look into computer security standards across state government after a hacker stole millions of taxpayers’ personal information from the state Department of Revenue.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.