Shortly after I became the New Orleans Inspector General, I met with Professor Michael Cowan and Nolan Rollins, former President of the Urban League of New Orleans. They told me that the Office of Inspector General should do “outreach.” In all my years of experience, I had never heard of an OIG doing outreach.
But I took their advice to heart: an OIG can only effectively bring about government improvement and detect and prevent fraud and abuse if the citizens for which it works support and assist those efforts.
The OIG received a grant in 2013, and one of its major objectives was to make sure that New Orleanians knew about the Office’s role and its work. The funding covered a redesign of our website and the development of a media strategy that included expanded social media messaging and ancillary materials—including short videos—that repackaged the OIG’s reports into more accessible formats. Representatives of the Office attended meetings of neighborhood, community, and civic groups. The goal was to increase the Office’s visibility in order to create awareness of and interest in the Office’s work.
These strategies began to work. For example: nolaoig.gov provides easily searchable, frequently updated information about the Office and its work products—so much so that the Pedestrian Crossing Signals report’s one-page “In Brief” caught the attention of a national news magazine’s researcher cruising the internet for material. And a councilmember who praised the OIG-produced video about the report sent it to her 2,000-member constituent mailing list.
But OIG staff thought there was more that could be done, and in January 2016 the Office began efforts to obtain additional funding to take our community engagement up a notch with the launch of an educational campaign. The new funding allowed the Office to commission a professional poll. Poll findings informed the campaign’s message and how to communicate it effectively. Funding for producing the television and internet videos and bus shelter posters arrived in September. Money for the media buy came through in early 2017, and the Office implemented the campaign.
My goal as Inspector General has been to institutionalize the OIG and its government oversight function. But to ensure effective oversight, people need to know about the Office and understand the importance of its mission. No matter who is IG, the work of the Office must continue.
And it is extremely important that the public understands that this Office is NOT a political entity and that the IG is NOT a politician. The OIG is independent from city government and works solely for the people of New Orleans. That is why the community engagement education campaign’s message is solely about the Office’s vigilant efforts to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of city government.
New Orleans inspector general