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History of the Massachusetts OIG

Established in 1981, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was created to address problems in public building contracting and also to meet the need for an independent oversight agency.

Our enabling statute is Chapter 12A of the General Laws (M.G.L. c. 12A). Our office is the first statewide inspector's general office in the country.

Table of Contents

Panorama of State House and downtown Boston

About John William Ward and the “Ward Commission”

John William Ward chaired the Special Commission Concerning State and County Buildings, which issued a report ultimately leading to the creation of the OIG. The Massachusetts legislature created the commission to investigate alleged corruption in the awarding of state and county building projects.

The Special Commission Concerning State and County Buildings soon became known as the “Ward Commission.” In a memorial tribute, Amherst professor Barry O'Connell called Ward’s service an “exemplary act of citizenship.”

According to O'Connell, Ward began his career as a Princeton University English professor and later went on to become president of Amherst College. He is credited with helping to establish the field of American Studies. In the late 1970s, Ward entered the public sector, accepting the nonpaying chairmanship of the special commission.

In 1980 the commission released its final report on public corruption in state and county building projects. The commission found that billions of dollars had been wasted on building projects. The 12-volume Ward Commission Report concluded that:

  • Corruption was a way of life in the Commonwealth
  • Political influence, not professional performance, was the main condition for doing business with the state
  • Shoddy work and low standards were the norm
“Nothing less, [Ward] thought, was at stake than the confidence of the citizens of the Commonwealth in their government and this he sought to restore by ending the pervasive corruption of that government.” --Barry O’Connell, “In Memoriam: John William Ward,” American Quarterly
"Our highest hope is that we will remind you [the Massachusetts legislature] and the public that it is possible for individuals, private and public, to care for what happens to our common life.” --John William Ward

Additional Resources

Creation of the OIG

Through the 1970s, the Massachusetts legislature’s approach to addressing state government’s problems was to appoint a special commission to deal with them.

But the Ward Commission believed this was not an effective or consistent enough approach. It argued that public life was “in dire shape, indeed,” if it relied on special commissions, created periodically on the basis of public outrage at a problem or scandal, to “correct the ills of public life.”

“…the Special Commission created the Office of the Inspector General, to build the capacity for self-correction into government itself.” --The Ward Report

In addition, the Ward Commission noted a "vast middle ground" between the State Auditor’s “ability to review all state transactions to a limited degree without the power to investigate” and the Attorney General’s "power to investigate allegations of fraud on a case-by-case basis."

As a result of the commission's work, the legislature created the OIG in Chapter 388 of the Acts of 1980. Its enabling statute is Chapter 12A of the General Laws (M.G.L. c. 12A).

"[Ward's] success was as exemplary in this endeavor as it was unexpected by all those who knew Massachusetts politics.” --Barry O’Connell, “In Memoriam: John William Ward,” American Quarterly

Current and Former Inspectors General

  • ​​​​​Glenn A. Cunha: Sworn in on August 6, 2012, reappointed on July 25, 2017 
  • Gregory W. Sullivan, 2001-2012 (2 terms)
  • Robert A. Cerasoli, 1991 - 2001 (2 terms) 
  • Joseph R. Barresi, 1981-1991 (2 terms) 

 

"...the investigative role assigned to this Office goes beyond bringing individuals to account, important as that function is. The Ward Commission explicitly sought to empower this Office -- just as the Commission itself had been empowered -- to contribute to the public's understanding of what had gone wrong and to make legislative and administrative recommendations to prevent recurrences."

-- Joseph R. Barresi

 

Image credits:  Shutterstock
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