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An example of a State employee saving your taxpayer dollars

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Two months ago, I worked with Broken Arrow State Representative David Brumbaugh to organize a legislative hearing before the House Appropriations Committee.

State Rep.  Jason Murphey

State Rep. Jason Murphey

The hearing highlighted the various ongoing initiatives to reduce the cost of state government. Various state officials told the committee of their cost saving and efficiency efforts.

Their presentations were well received as legislators always appreciate hearing good news.

One of the highlights of the hearing occurred as Oklahoma’s purchasing director told the committee that reforms to the state’s purchasing system are exceeding estimates and now save state and local governments 25 million dollars each year. He said savings have exceeded last year’s estimates by 6 percent and now total $61 million since the passage of our purchasing reform proposal in the 2009 legislative session.

As we listened to the presentations, and questioned the state officials, I couldn’t help but recall our first government modernization hearing which took place seven years ago, in the same committee room, before the same committee.

The contrast between the two hearings was marked.

At the time, the give and take between legislators and state officials was more combative in nature. State officials were defensive of the status-quo and aggressively criticized a report which had been published by IBM and which showed the state missing out on millions in savings. As legislators we wanted to know why the state wasn’t acting on these findings. It seemed that the state was more interested in attacking IBM than dealing with the specifics of the report. State officials were defensive and reluctant to admit that the status-quo wasn’t working.

However, following that hearing, the legislature and state officials joined together to start implementing the report and changing the culture of the centralized purchasing division: an effort which culminated in our hearing this year.

As part of the hearing, we were able to analyze an incident which I believe shows that changing culture.

At this time last year, State Representative Bobby Cleveland received information from a conscientious state employee who worked inside of a state prison located in Cleveland’s district. That person had gone above and beyond in analyzing the purchases from the state’s food contract which is used to feed the inmates. He found pricing irregularities, and used the occasion of one of Cleveland’s visits to the facility to talk to Cleveland about the findings.

Cleveland brought the irregularities to the attention of purchasing officials. This provided a great test of the new culture of the purchasing group. Would they become defensive and attempt to defend the status-quo? Or, would they take the concerns seriously?
I am extremely proud of the response by state purchasing officials. They acted on the findings, brought in and interviewed the individual who had concerns, found his claims to be meritorious and then addressed the matter with the vendor who held that contract.

This should serve as notice to all state employees that they will be supported and defended when they do the right thing on behalf of the taxpayers.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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