OSIG: Virginia’s Watchdog for Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Number of cases opened by OSIG’s Investigations Unit.

by James A. Bacon

The Northam administration is embroiled in its biggest scandal since the blackface blunder: a flap over an Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) report into the allegedly improper release of prisoners by the Virginia Parole Board.

Here’s what went down: OSIG wrote highly critical draft findings of the parole board… which were leaked to the Attorney General’s Office… which allegedly redacted and watered down the report… which was released to the public… inspiring senior Northam administration officials to summon Inspector Michael Westfall and investigator Jennifer Moschetti for a round of allegedly hostile questioning… which prompted Moschetti to file a lawsuit alleging that the meeting “was intended to intimidate the State Inspector General and the investigators tasked with making fact findings related to members of the Parole Board.”

I hope I got that right. Read the Associated Press summary here.

That got me to thinking. What does the OSIG do?

In the OSIG’s “Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report,” Westfall summed up his job: “As State Inspector General, my staff and I work to deter fraud, waste, abuse and corruption and promote integrity and ethical conduct.”

The number of cases opened by OSIG’s Chief of Investigations and her staff during Fiscal 2020 more than doubled, from 23 to 51 (as seen in the graph above). Likewise, the number of complaints to the Behavioral Health and Development Services (BHDS) Complaint Line, which expanded to an online form from just a toll-free number, also more than doubled.

Westfall reported the following breakdown of activity during the 2020 fiscal year:

  • Opened 318 “Fraud, Waste & Abuse” cases for investigation, closed 326, and found 25% to be substantiated.
  • Opened 51 state agency investigations into alleged fraud, conflict of interest, misappropriation, procurement violations, and waste and abuse. OSIG closed 26 cases and referred six for prosecutorial consideration.
  • Processed 603 complaints relating to behavioral health facilities.

None of the internal investigations turned up anything earth-shakingly consequential, though.

  • An audit revealed that business office specialist in the Mount Rogers Health district embezzled $1,875 from its Environmental Health Unit.
  • Following up a tip from the Department of Taxation, OSIG found that a TAX employee had misappropriated $1,163.28 in funds by misrepresenting the number of hours worked.
  • An internal review by the Roanoke City Department of Social Services revealed that an employee might have illegally received an $850 check, but the OSIG investigation was inconclusive.
  • An OSIG investigation found that an employee of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs had made several unauthorized changes in the online reconciliation project but spotted on instances of transactions related to financial gain.

It should surprise no one that the biggest scandal investigated by OSIG in the past couple of years did not involve petty crimes by state employees but abuses of power by members of Virginia’s political class.