Former Mass. Inspector General to be Watchdog as New Orleans Rebuilds

June 14, 2007

A former Massachusetts inspector general, who gained prominence for questions he raised about the long troubled Big Dig highway project, will be New Orleans’ top watchdog as it rebuilds after Hurricane Katrina.

Robert Cerasoli, 59, was offered and accepted the job of inspector general on June 12.

Cerasoli is “widely considered the founder of the inspector general movement in the United States,” said the Rev. Kevin Wildes, chairman of the board charged with finding an inspector general for New Orleans.

The council created the post last year to send a message that the city, with its reputation for political corruption, could be trusted to properly spend federal rebuilding aid following Hurricane Katrina.

Cerasoli served as inspector general of Massachusetts from 1991 to 2001.

He gained some prominence because of the Big Dig tunnel, considered the costliest public works project in U.S. history and beset by myriad problems from leaks and cost overruns to a deadly ceiling collapse last year.

As early as the mid-’90s, Cerasoli questioned the close relationship between the department then overseeing the project and firms picked to build it, as well as how the work was being monitored.

Cerasoli said one of his first orders of business will be educating people on what an inspector general does and getting them to gain confidence in the office and to see it as a resource.

“The whole concept is detection and prevention of fraud, waste and abuse,” he said.

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