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Gov. Haley names inspector general to target fraud

Gov. Nikki Haley announced Friday the creation of a new Cabinet position, a state inspector general who she said will help sniff out waste, fraud and abuse in the Cabinet agencies that report to her.

Haley named George Schroeder - who for more than 30 years led the state's Legislative Audit Council, which audits state agencies and programs at the request of lawmakers - as inspector general.

Schroeder will be paid $110,000 a year. His salary will be paid with state money that now goes to Cabinet agencies for auditing purposes, a Haley spokesman said.

"This idea of the governor's is a sea change," Schroeder said Friday. "This is a fundamental part of restructuring and reform that will have a tremendous impact."

While on the campaign trail, Haley said she often heard from state workers about mismanagement and abuse in state agencies.

"We have a lot of state employees who see fraud and want to tell someone and don't have anyone to tell," Haley said. "We have constituents who see waste and want someone to tell."

By the end of March, a toll-free phone number will be available for state workers and residents to leave anonymous tips for the inspector general to look into, Haley said.

Haley said she has authority to create and fill the position without legislative approval. She hopes the General Assembly will expand Schroeder's role to allow him to investigate allegations of fraud in any part of state government, not just those that report to the governor. She said several senators and House members have expressed interest in that idea.

Several bills to do just that have been filed by senators this year, including one co-sponsored by state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Kershaw County Democrat who unsuccessfully ran against Haley in November.

Haley campaigned saying she would eliminate waste and fraud in government, and also halt its growth. Friday, her staff defended her decision to add to government, creating a new post.

"Adding one state employee to cut millions of dollars in fraud and waste in government is not, by any objective standard, growing government," said Rob Godfrey, Haley's spokesman.

About half of states employ inspector generals that either oversee part or all of state government, or oversee local governments. Their jurisdiction varies widely with some functioning similarly to police agencies.

Schroeder will not have subpoena power or the ability to prosecute cases, Haley's staff said Friday. That would be left up to the state attorney general or local prosecutors.

Sheryl Steckler, inspector general for Palm Beach County, Fla., and executive committee member of the Association of Inspectors General, said that might be a problem.

"We've got such great access to public records in Florida that I personally don't really need [subpoena power]," Steckler said. "But, in other states, you do. It gives you leverage to get state records. Whether you need it varies from state to state."