A new interim report released Monday introduces a new state government efficiency initiative in the governor’s budget office and highlights several measures already undertaken by state agencies to improve effectiveness. The report promises more reforms that will help deliver “the most efficient government possible for all taxpayers,” while fostering a “culture of customer service”.
NC GEAR is the NC Government Efficiency and Reform initiative, which was created in last year’s state budget and operates within the Office of State Budget and Management. The stated intent of NC GEAR is “to develop a strategic transformation plan for state government.” More specifically, the new initiative was granted the authority to evaluate “all executive branch departments, agencies, boards, commissions, authorities, and institutions in the executive branch of state government, including receipt-supported agencies, and all non-State entities receiving state funds.”
The state budget included a $2 million appropriation for each year of the two-year budget to fund this project.
The final goal for NC GEAR is a comprehensive examination of the entire executive branch, and to develop reforms to make state government more efficient and customer-friendly. The complete package of reforms is scheduled to be presented to the Governor and General Assembly by February 2015.
Most major state agencies fall under the purview of the Executive Branch. These include Public Instruction, Higher Education, Health and Human Services, Office of State Budget and Management, Administration, State Personnel, Transportation, Commerce, Environment and Natural Resources, and many others.
The group is utilizing the services of consulting firm Deloitte Consulting LLP, which was selected after a competitive bidding process. A significant part of the evaluation process will include a comparison of North Carolina’s programs to those of other states on “cost, coverage, quality and effectiveness” to ensure the state is engaging in best practices, according to the report.
While evaluating various “programs, systems and structures” throughout state government, NC GEAR claims it will ask, “Would we still do this if we weren’t already doing it?”
According to the report, the initiative will “act as a clearinghouse for reform proposals and a catalyst for action to transform state government.” Indeed, the NC GEAR website has a link for citizens to submit their suggestions to make state government run more efficiently.
The report also emphasizes that the effort is “not simply a cost-cutting exercise,” but is also focused on improving the customer service provided to citizens when dealing with state government.
The reforms included in the report will be sustainable and focused on the long-term, according its authors.
The report acknowledges that reform efforts have already begun in several state agencies, and highlights these reforms. Moreover, the report praises these reforms as “examples of the mindset NC GEAR will emulate: encouraging a culture of customer service and accountability.”
The report cites a total of 38 reforms spanning ten state agencies. Following is a list of the more notable reforms highlighted in the report:
Strategic Sourcing – Dept. of Administration
This effort aims to streamline the state procurement process and generate cost savings. An example of this cited in the report is a new office supplies contract projected to save $5 million per year over the next three years.
Partnership for Prosperity – Dept. of Commerce
This is the much-discussed proposal for a public-private partnership to take over responsibilities for the “sales and marketing functions of economic development statewide.” This proposal would establish a private nonprofit group to leverage taxpayer dollars and centralize these economic development functions.
Faster Unemployment Appeals – Division of Employment Security
The DES implemented several process improvements to reduce the amount of time needed for people appealing their unemployment benefit eligibility. The average wait time has been reduced from 279 days to 33 days as of February 2014. This marks the first time in 30 years the average wait time has dropped below the federal standard of 40 days.
Shorter Wait Times at DMV – Department of Transportation
After months of evaluation, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) initiated new customer service techniques to improve wait times. The result has been a 50 percent reduction of wait times at some pilot offices.