3 investigation tips from a former inspector general

Avoidable mistakes can compromise an investigation and aggravate problems under review. Former Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Richard Kusserow has been asked so often to help fix investigative errors that he created a list of best practices. Here are three:

1. Verify complaints promptly. "Many serious issues are mishandled all the time by allowing too much time between the filing of a complaint and debriefing the complainant," Kusserow wrote.

2. Avoid using original documents, and control and track cases. Original documents that are evidentiary should be tagged, logged and stored securely. Use copies for case work, not originals. And all complaints should be date-stamped, logged and numbered as part of records management.

3. Maintain the "chain of custody." Track all evidence obtained so that it is never outside the investigator's control. Failure to do this may cause evidence to be disallowed later.

Read the complete list of tips in Kusserow's commentary.