Government Reorganization Interim Holds First Meeting

ReorganizationOn September 9, the State Government Reorganization Interim Committee met for the first time.

According to the charge of the committee, the goal is to consider options for reorganizing state government to improve efficiency, modernize processes, eliminate duplication and outdated processes, reduce costs, and increase accountability. The review shall address the expanded use of the Internet and other technology, and the incorporation of productivity improvement measures. The study shall include a process to receive state government efficiency suggestions offered by the public.

The members of the interim are Senators Appel, Danielson, Feenstra, Hamerlinck and Warnstadt and Representatives Mascher, Gaskill, Helland, Struyk and Todd Taylor.

Dick Oshlo of the Department of Management (DOM) began the meeting by talking about the Governor’s goals for the committee. Stealing a page from House Republicans, he said the Governor is establishing a web site to inform Iowans about the budget reductions and allow Iowans to suggest reductions.

Oshlo introduced Eric Schnurer, President of Public Works, to discuss the company’s contract with the State of Iowa. Public Works is being paid $300,000 to suggest budget savings by making state government more efficient. Oshlo declined to identify the savings target, however, Senator Danielson let it slip that it was roughly $125 million in savings. Schnurer spent a lot of time going over his resume and Public Works’ contracts with the states of Pennsylvania, Texas and the United States Government.

Representatives Helland and Struyk both asked if the Governor would release the budget cuts suggested by the departments last fall. After trying to deflect the question, he told Struyk that the Governor would release the suggestions. However, after his presentation Oshlo told the media he has to check with the Governor’s legal counsel before agreeing to release the budget documents.

…Mascher said she was not interested in reviewing the budget cuts suggested by the departments last fall.

Representative Struyk asked if the committee was going to work in a bipartisan manner or if the decisions would be made behind closed doors by the Democrats. Representative Mascher, co-chair of the committee, said that the Republicans would be included in the process. However, Mascher said she was not interested in reviewing the budget cuts suggested by the departments last fall.

Next up was Teresa McMahon of DOM who discussed the Kaizan efforts of state agencies. Kaizan is a process of continuous improvement. In state government it specifically deals with improving the services provided by the individual agencies. When Helland asked how many dollars were saved by Kaizan, Ms. McMahon stated that the savings were “soft dollars” of eliminating waiting lists, improved permitting processes and better costumer service.

The rest of the meeting was focused on the state’s information technology (IT) systems. First up was the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). According to DAS, the executive branch spends $160 million a year on IT services. Included in that figure is $60 million annually for the personnel to service and maintain the IT systems. DAS also released the following figures:

  • The state needs 48,970 square feet to house IT servers
  • The state has 223 different server locations
  • The current servers have 37 percent unused data center capacity
  • The state has 23 different email systems
  • The state has 1177 Blackberry devices
  • The state has 779 IT personnel and 85 IT-related personnel

Representative Mascher asked if some of the changes could be accomplished via executive order. She asked DAS to report back to the committee about which changes could be made by executive order and which would need legislative approval. DAS promised to provide this information.

Up next was representatives from Microsoft and Google to discuss IT consolidation. There was extensive discussion of the “cloud” technology. Cloud technology means that the state has the capacity to do everything technology-wise that it can now but the information is stored and maintained at a private data center. This allows current IT personnel to be eliminated or assigned to other tasks.

Microsoft prefers a hybrid approach that uses a combination of the current systems and the cloud system. Google prefers moving away from the current system and move to the cloud system entirely.

House Republicans have offered an amendment last session to consolidate IT systems and it was rejected along party lines. House Republicans will continue to suggest ways for state government to become more efficient and save the taxpayers money.

The second meeting of the interim committee is scheduled for December 10.