Reflections of John Jay College MPA Students on the Conference

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by Jessica Cabrera, AIG Assistant Executive Director

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Over the years, a highlight of the annual Association of Inspectors General training conference has been the participation of students from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Masters of Public Administration Inspection and Oversight (MPA-IO) program (also known as the “MPA IG-Track”).

The MPA-IO program is dedicated to educating and training students in the development of auditing and investigatory skills, for successful careers in offices of inspectors general and other public, private and not-for-profit organizations. Approximately 60 John Jay graduate students attended this year’s training conference in Boston, and three agreed to share their thoughts with on the experience with me.

How did attending the Boston AIG conference benefit or enhanced your knowledge of the Inspector General field, as it relates to your experience in the MPA-IO program?

Alethea Cruz: The conference benefits students in the IO program because we spend a great deal of time leaning about what IGs do and how to conduct an investigation. While at the conference, I was able to meet real IGs and hear first hand stories about things they have encountered during their careers. They also provided very insightful tips about how they choose to investigate a case, and what they do during that investigation.

Bikens Pierre: The conference helped me tremendously. I learned so much that is directly applicable to my graduate studies in the MPA-IO program, as well as to my work as an investigator for the New York State Medicaid Providers office. For example, I now have a clearer understanding of how to use big data analytics and other electronic tools to enhance investigations, and to promote transparency and accountability. This will be very helpful as I work on fraud cases with other law enforcement partners.

Alina Zhelizna: As a MPAIO student I found this conference to be a great opportunity to learn more about inspectors general as inspection and oversight is my future career, this knowledge is very valuable and important for me. The AIG Conference in Boston helped me to build relationships with experienced professionals and provided me with opportunities and resources for my future career growth and development. I will be graduating in 2017, I am very grateful that I had this opportunity to attend the AIG’s training conference and learned more about current challenges facing inspectors general, new fraud schemes, as well as preventative tools and techniques.

Were there any speaker(s) or panel(s) that you found particularly interesting?

Alethea Cruz: I found the presentation of Howard Schwartz, the Deputy Inspector General of New Orleans to be very interesting. When he described all of the different forms of fraud, waste and abuse he has dealt with, it was amazing to know that his city had money left over for actual public works. What was particularly striking was that years of corruption cost the city millions of dollars in maintaining a patch of grass near a highway.

Bikens Pierre: There were several speakers and panels that I found interesting, most particularly, I enjoyed Harry Markopolos’s presentation. It was fascinating to hear him speak about how he was able to uncover Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme. I also found Massachusett’s Inspector General Glenn Cunha talk on strategies for preventing waste to be very informative.

Alina Zhelizna: All of the speakers were excellent. The one that impressed me the most was the presentation by Howard Schwartz, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations from the City of New Orleans, who talked about public corruption involving Mayor Ray Nagin, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and City contractors. In his presentation, Mr. Schwartz highlighted major aspects of the case such as conflicts of interest, bribery, money laundering, and wire fraud.

What is your overall take away from the conference?

Alethea Cruz: My overall takeaway from the conference is a confirmation that I am in the right field. I loved hearing about how IGs fight corruption. I know now, more than ever, that once I graduate I want to stay in the inspector general field.

Bikens Pierre: The conference was very well structured and organized. The array of speakers was outstanding. As a student I know that the AIG conference increased my overall understanding of the IG’s mission of fighting fraud, waste, abuse and corruption, and promoting accountability and integrity in government.

Alina Zhelizna: All in all, I must say that I had a great experience and I definitely benefited from all the presentations and most importantly the networking opportunities. It would be great to attend future conferences as a John Jay alumnus.