The Word in the House 1/18/2016 - Seeking Accountability

First, here’s an update on effects of the spending cap or threshold on school budgets in Act 46. Action to address this is progressing in both the House and Senate, although the approaches are different. Whether the spending threshold is increased by 0.9%, as proposed by the House, or whether they are repealed altogether, as proposed by the Senate, will probably come down to a compromise which will be decided in a conference committee of both bodies. 

In the meantime, our attention in the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee has been focused on the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and its departments including the Fish and Wildlife Department, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the permitting processes of ANR.  Several years ago the Legislature adopted a policy called Results Based Accountability (RBA). This policy requires each legislative committee to request the government departments and agencies in its purview to develop metrics to answer three questions with regard to their missions:

  1. How much did we do?
  2. How well did we do it?
  3. Is anyone better off?
For example, if the Legislature sets the goal of treating all persons addicted to opiates and allocates money for the program in the budget, the RBA metrics would include how many addicts got into the program, how many were successfully treated and at what cost, how many reintegrated as productive members of society, and how many seeking treatment couldn’t be accommodated. 

Following this model the Department of Environmental Conservation asked its employees what could be done to increase the efficiency of its operations. One division of the department had a backlog of 1100 drinking water and pollution control project audits. They estimated that it would take more than 100 person years to resolve the backlog using the existing audit process. A new approach was needed to tailor the level of audit to the level of project risk and streamline the process. The Commissioner at the time, David Mears, charged his team to analyze the process and come up with suggestions for improvement. 

As a result of this exercise dozens of iterative steps were condensed to a few necessary ones while retaining the effectiveness of the audits.  The changes resulted in a 76% reduction in the backlog, which is on target to be eliminated by March 2016, an increase in job satisfaction for the employees involved, a savings of $1.6M returned to the State Revolving Fund, and the ability to reallocate some personnel to unfilled positions in other areas. 

This success and similar ones in the Agency of Transportation serve as a model for other agencies of state government.  The Legislature hopes that continued attention to Results Based Accountability will help state government become more efficient, save taxpayer dollars, and help us get a better handle on the state budget.
I continue to welcome your comments and can be reached by phone (802-233-5238) or by email (