Investigations into charges of fraud, waste and unethical behavior saved Baltimore nearly $1.6 million over the last year, the city's inspector general said in a report issued Monday.
That's nearly three times the $538,615 annual budget of the six-employee office, which was created in 2005 to root out corruption in government and help city agencies cut costs, Inspector General David McClintock said in the annual report.
It is also a record in savings since the office was established, McClintock said, and more than eight times the figure of $187,000 the office reported saving taxpayers in 2009-2010.
McClintock said his agents investigated 99 cases from Aug. 20, 2010, to Aug. 20, 2011 — more than double the 40 cases investigated in the previous year.
According to the report, the total amount saved in fiscal 2011 was $1,593,496,39. The breakdown included:
• $641,833.00 saved by detecting and ending a scheme in which a vendor allegedly was charging the city $29.50 for air filters that typically sell for 20 cents and didn't meet the city's quality-control specifications.
• $922,289.81 saved by terminating and prosecuting an employee at the city's Quarantine Road landfill who allegedly was stealing diesel fuel intended for municipal vehicles and selling it to private truckers for $1 a gallon.
• $16,890 saved by uncovering a scheme in which a Department of Public Works employee allegedly manipulated her department's payroll so she would regularly receive overtime pay and compensatory time that she didn't earn — resulting in a $1,407.50-per-month loss to the city over 39 months.
• $12,000 saved by recovering security equipment from the home of former Mayor Sheila Dixon after she resigned as part of a plea bargain agreement.
• $453.58 saved by discovering additional thefts of fuel meant for city-owned vehicles.
McClintock attributed the increases in cases and savings to a combination of factors, including a greater public awareness of his office and what it does, more tips from city employees, increased collaboration with other agencies and a more aggressive stance from department heads seeking to cut costs.
He said his office recently launched a program to pay people for tips that end up saving the city money, and that gives people additional incentive to provide information .
"I think we're off to a really good start," he said. "People know we're out there. They know what we can do."
McClintock, who become inspector general shortly after Stephanie Rawlings-Blake became mayor in early 2010, said the increase in complaints to his office has a downside: Publicity about those complaints can make people think the city is more corrupt than before.
But the positive side, he said, is that the investigations encourage more tipsters and whistle-blowers to come forward.
"I think we've been able to be effective, and I think that is resulting in both the quantity and quality of information we are receiving and pursuing," he said. "The more that people believe we can be effective, the more people are willing to bring us quality information."
McClintock said Rawlings-Blake has never asked him to launch or back off from an investigation.
"I think we have the proper level of support from the administration," he said.
He said the only real support he needs from the mayor's office is a sufficient budget for his office to carry out its work and hire the number of investigators it needs. The city increased the inspector general's budget for the current fiscal year so it can add two more staffers: one agent devoted solely to investigating cases involving the Department of Public Works (and whose position will be funded by DPW) and one "evaluation manager" to specialize in accounting fraud.
He said he would like to see his staff grow to 10 or 11 to pursue all the leads it has. At present, he said, "we have more actionable information than we have people to investigate."
The office logged a total of 153 cases in 2010-2011, McClintock said, but referred 54 of them to other agencies to investigate.
A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said she has been a strong supporter of the Office of the Inspector General since she became mayor.
Spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said he could not address McClintock's goal of building up to 11 employees because the next round of city budgeting has not begun. He said the decision to increase the office's budget when others were cut was a sign of the mayor's support.