There is a critical reform that needs to be made by the Alaska Legislature if there is to be any meaningful attempt at getting the executive branch under control. The proposal that I have in mind would be one that would grow government in a way but it would be growth in government that would benefit the residents of the state. The proposal is that there should be a bill introduced in the next session of the Alaska Legislature that creates a position of inspectors general in every department of state government.
These officials would be responsible for investigating their department of jurisdiction searching for waste of public funds or outright fraudulent use of state funds. These inspectors general would make annual reports to the finance committees of both bodies so that members of those committees would have a more informed view of how the departments are spending public money. The inspectors general would be accountable only to the legislature they would not be answering to the governor or to any other executive branch official.
The way they would be appointed is under proposed legislation the departments would be divided up with the Speaker of the House and the Senate President being given the ability to appoint inspectors for different departments. The inspectors would then serve at the pleasure of the presiding officer of whichever body appointed them to the position. The inspectors general would have staff under them to help with investigations and would have authority to issue subpoenas within a department for relevant documents.
This is a reform that will give the legislature critical oversight capability to monitor the actions of the executive branch. It will also bring about a culture change in state government because if commissioners know that they have to ensure their departments are using public funds wisely or it will be exposed to the legislature. The leaders of the finance committees in both chambers should confer together and start developing legislation around this concept so that next session they have something ready to go. The members of the Alaska Legislature have to begin developing public policies that will strengthen their power and will hold the executive branch in check. If they do not, then every four years we will continue to get into battles over the budget and how the departments are handling money. This idea, if it were to become law, would not end those battles but it would give the legislature and the public a clear view of how state government is working.