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24.8.08

Jindal orders create better government, culture shift

It took the media almost three weeks to catch on, but Gov. Bobby Jindal has dropped the other shoe regarding funding of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Months ago, and with some criticism later in the process, Jindal added much more transparency in what requests for state money would be legitimate in his eyes. Now, he will force recipients to be much more accountable in their expenditures of the funds.

Believe it or not, until Jindal became governor, tens of millions of dollars every year of state taxpayer money was being sent to organizations that had to reveal nothing about themselves and who could spend the money practically for any reason. Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco at the very end of her term did request a little information about the recipients, but exercised virtually no enforcement on the quality of the requests.

First, Jindal informed the Legislature that he would veto projects that failed to meet certain criteria, implicitly daring it to reverse any offending items coming his way, and enforced those criteria in a fairly even-handed way. Now, he has strengthened the process by making more formal the distribution process in a way that forces more accountability in the use of state dollars.

Not only did he specify, in one executive order, stringent standards in reporting the nature of the expenditures, but he required that in most cases the state issue the money only as reimbursement after such reporting and proof of expenditure for that purpose. Further, in another executive order he mandated the releasing of funds would occur as part of a contractual agreement that requires repayment to the state if the organization does not use the money for the purposes intended in a process to be monitored by the Division of Administration prior to any agency responsible for disbursing funds actually doing so.

This has brought howls of protest from legislators used to stuffing a pet concern into the budget with no real oversight of it. This is because the combination of these orders likely will reduce dramatically the numbers of NGOs seeking such funds. Many will opt out of forwarding requests to legislators because they are unwilling to provide the information required by the order, or do not want to be put at risk for paying back funds not used exactly for the purpose outlined, or both. Without such largesse to slice out of the taxpayer to send back to their districts built-in constituencies, the recipients, to perpetuate a legislator’s stay in office will evaporate which in the final analysis will force lawmakers to be more attentive to policy concerns of voters.

So rattled by this was state Sen. Mike Michot that he apparently forgot what the Louisiana Constitution and the Revised Statutes had to say on the roles of the Legislature and executive branch in dealing with appropriations. “I don't think the executive branch has authority to say how and when funding is distributed,” he yammered, forgetting that Art. VII Sec. 10(D)(1) states “money shall be drawn from the state treasury only pursuant to an appropriation made in accordance with law,” and R.S. 39:57.1 which states the Commissioner of Administration, part of the governor’s office in the executive branch, “may review and approve the initial allocation of expenditures for each appropriation for a fiscal year.” However, if he wishes to make the matter perfectly clear, Michot is free to sponsor a bill that explicitly prohibits approval of the Commissioner before disbursing funds; I’ll bet that would be popular with his constituents, good government groups, etc.

Jindal’s new standards (which will exist until rescinded by a governor or overruled by legislation) not only improve government performance and accountability, but also fundamentally alter the nature of the Louisiana political environment as politics becomes less determined by the personalities of officeholders and more shaped by people’s issue preferences. The benefits of these to the body politic cannot be overstated.

2 comments:

Nick said...

I don't know what Mike Michot is complaining about.

Governor Jindal did NOT veto Michot's appropriation for a chimpanzee observatory in Lafayette.

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/17076186.html

What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Donna B. said...

There are some good NGOs. They are few, however. Good for Jindal.