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Watchdog for waste sets $160,000 worth of bad example

So, a state agency in charge of investigating wasteful spending and fraud has been found to be wasting $160,000.

That sounds about right.

The state inspector general’s office purchased pistols, ammunition and other related equipment following a law passed in 2017 that expanded the office’s powers to allow it to issue subpoenas and search warrants.

The Pennsylvania watchdog agency is tasked with monitoring state misconduct and waste. Its spokesman said that after the purchase was completed, officials realized the law didn’t empower investigators to carry a firearm.

The items have since been held in a secure facility and the office is working to return or repurpose the firearms. But the image damage already has been done.

When state taxpayers see something like this, they have every right to wonder how much more of it goes on throughout the budget. Given the track record of spending increases in the past three decades, the cynicism is warranted.

People who work in the private sector, whether it be a top management position or a clerical role, must look at unapproved expenditures of $160,000 and roll their eyes. Most small businesses would cease to exist based on that sort of mistake, oversight or transgression.

We need the inspector general’s office to do its job and do it well.

A state with budgetary issues nearly every year needs to reduce wasteful spending, misconduct and fraud. And there probably is a need for a little more debate about the carrying of a firearm to execute that work.

The office is taking criticism for the firearms purchases, but there probably are some cases where workers are executing a warrant and a firearm may make sense. Going into a home or business unannounced can place someone at risk.

But while that issue is being justifiably debated, the inspector general’s office needs to make sure its mission to reduce wasteful spending, misconduct and fraud is executed without transgressions of its own.

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