Friday, April 28, 2017

Senate votes to create new commission for performance audits of state agencies

Sen. Pro Tem Mike Schulz

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday in a bipartisan vote approved a bill creating an independent commission to conduct comprehensive performance audits of state agencies. House Bill 2311 is authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.

The bill creates the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission which is directed to conduct a comprehensive performance audit of state agencies, as well as conduct a diagnostic analysis of the state’s budget to identify spending trends. The commission would then make recommendations to the Legislature on how to implement best practices from both the private and public sector to ensure state government services are run in the most cost-effective manner.

“This year’s budget shortfall highlights the need to ensure state government is operating efficiently, but during ‘bad’ or ‘good’ budgets our goal remains the same: to ensure the most cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars. This measure will provide lawmakers with independent data to help us make more well-informed decisions about the state’s spending priorities. Oklahoma taxpayers deserve a state government run efficiently and one that delivers service at a high level and this bill moves us one step closer to achieving those goals,” Schulz said.

The measure now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments to the bill.

I will be honest - my knee-jerk reaction is why on earth do we need yet another commission, given that Oklahoma already has somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 agencies, boards and commissions. This may well be a great idea - and some people I talked to think it is - but creating more bureaucracy to rein in bureaucracy doesn't immediately sound like a winner to me.

Former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn routinely talked about waste and duplication in government, including boards and commissions operating with the same or similar mission yet failing to accomplish their stated goals. Is this just another example? I don't know. I don't see why we can't use an existing agency (the State Auditor & Inspector's office) to perform this duty.

The measure first passed the House 64 to 24, with only Democrats voting against. It passed the Senate 41 to 4, again with only Democrats voting against. That does may me think I'm being too hard on the measure, as not one single conservative evidently had misgivings about the idea.

You can read the Senate-amended version here. It goes back to the House for consideration, and if passed without amendment goes to the Governor for signing.

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