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As the state cues up more means to improve service and save money, this does not mean it can afford to abrogate its responsibility to present clear rationales for doing so, as the latest meeting of the State Civil Service Commission demonstrates.
In it, the CSC was given notice of four planned reorganizations that would shrink bureaucracy. In any situation where layoffs occur, the CSC must approve of the plan on the evidence that government must do so because of insufficient finances or that an alternative method, such as contracting, will save the state money, in order to prevent arbitrary discharges of employees from the state’s classified civil service. As a result, for next month’s meeting the agencies involved will have to present data to demonstrate savings with the likelihood of comparable or better service, which they indicate they can and will do.
Yet, given that opportunity for another change that did not involve contracting outside of government, one agency involved, the Department of Health and Hospitals, threw up a brick. It planned to eliminate over five dozen jobs dealing with information technology in New Orleans by, in essence, transferring the responsibility to the University of New Orleans. While it argued that data processing at UNO was done with greater expertise, the supporting documentation contained so many errors and was so convoluted that not a single member of the Commission was convinced, and some thought it would cost more.
DHH says it will be back next month with a more competent and convincing report, arguing the latest estimate shows savings of $7.5 million, but there’s little excuse for serving up such an incomplete effort in a state with a history of faith in government. Paradoxically, even though Louisiana has a reputation for disproportionate corruption among its officials, too many in the public resist addressing the disease rather than the symptom, that being government disproportionately large for doing the necessary tasks of government, tolerated because too many believe too strongly that government should redistribute the resources that some earn to favored others for reasons of politics and ideology. The bigger and more bloated government is, the more likely it gets conceived as an instrument to distribute resources among competing groups, instead of serving as an impartial referee to allow individuals to maximize the fruits of their own efforts.
The special interests created by this noxious attitude, such as overcompensated state employees, will fight tooth and nail against making a fairer system for the citizens. In pursuing this kind of reform, forces involved must be especially vigilant in making their cases to offset these revanchists – not just for the CSC but also because these contracts may need vetting by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Those interests part of the solution for more efficient government should hope the agencies involved make sure they have it together in the future.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:00