Should the Office of the Attorney General Be Reviewed by the Sunset Advisory Commission?

Former HHSC Inspector General Doug Wilson testifying before the Sunset Advisory Commission

This is a trial balloon.

We've written numerous articles about the need for changes to the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act.

The Act needs to be a deterrent for real fraudsters, not a state-supported protection racket to be used against successful, law-abiding providers by ne'er-do-wells who make allegations without evidence hoping for a windfall and their connected lawyers.  There needs to be a check on this.

Another avenue for reform is oversight of which there is currently a lack.  So we make the following suggestion.

Should there be a Sunset review?

The Sunset Advisory Commission of Texas has the mission "to enhance government accountability to the Legislature and people of Texas by objectively evaluating the need for and value of state programs and services."

The Commission currently reviews the operations of 131 government agencies every twelve years. Each agency has an expiration date set in law and must show just cause for its continued existence to the Commission which reviews its performance in a public process.

Yes, the Commission has the power to abolish an agency. It has done so 92 times since its inception. But more importantly, it has helped streamline government operations and make them more accountable to serve the people of Texas.

Of course, as an arm of the executive branch, the OAG would never be abolished.  What we are really suggesting is a review similar to Sunset for OAG and why not the Sunset Advisory Commission which is experienced in such matters? Their process works.

External review is public

The third-party and public aspects of the review are important and well-oiled.

The staff of the Commission first do a comprehensive review of the agency and even solicits public input. It then publishes a staff report with proposals on the agency for the Commission members. The report is publicly available.

Then the Commission holds a public hearing on the agency and sometime after votes on the staff recommendations and whether to accept or modify them.

Lastly, legislation is drafted so the House and Senate can approve the Commission's recommendations.

Is it effective?

One only has to think back to the Sunset Commission review back in 2014 of the Health and Human Services Commission which led to changes in the Office of the Inspector General. Then-IG Doug Wilson had to defend his agency's actions to the Commission which ultimately lost faith in him and led to Governor Perry requesting his resignation.

So we bring this up in relation to the Office of Attorney General and its agency, the Civil Medicaid Fraud unit.

Why not? 

After all,  the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence voted unanimously earlier this year to approve a bill to change the TMFPA as the act is entirely unfair to Medicaid providers. 

Any process that allows the state to assist uncredible scofflaws without any evidence of fraud to milk millions of dollars from healthcare professionals cannot stand such a review.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant

Unless there is an external review and the agency is held accountable to the Legislature and people of Texas, how will it change for the better? 

So we put forward the proposition that the Office of the Attorney General should be reviewed regularly by the Sunset Commission.

If it is good for 131 other government agencies, who could complain that it wouldn't be good for the OAG?

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