Editor’s note: Greg Kaza is executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, a nonprofit think tank founded in 1995 in Little Rock. His organization is spearheading Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Efficiency Project review of state government.
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Efficiency is the process of accomplishing a task in a competent manner with minimal waste of time and resources. Customers are unlikely to enjoy waiting in line to purchase an inferior product. Efficiency can also be applied to state government. State services should be delivered to taxpayers and other customers in a timely manner that does not waste scarce economic resources.
The search for efficiencies is an analytical process that includes identifying systems for delivering state services, and uncovering any bottlenecks that may impede delivery. The process starts with organizational charts and mission statements, and advances to interviews with senior staff. These clarify how departments view efficiency and whether any internal or external barriers exist. Some staff have acted to make their departments more efficient, while others may need assistance or specialized information about initiatives in other states.
Performance measures are important to this process. “A good performance measurement system possesses several important characteristics,” a 1998 Policy Foundation report notes. “Performance measures should be based on program goals and objectives that tie to a statement of program mission or purpose. They should measure program results or accomplishments and provide for comparisons over time. In measuring both efficiency and effectiveness, performance measures should be reliable, verifiable, and understandable. They should be reported internally and publicly. They require monitoring and should be used in decision-making processes. Finally, performance measures should be limited in numbers and complexity so that they provide an efficient and meaningful way to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of key programs.”
Customers that use services and civil servants involved in their delivery have key insights. Research efforts that identify government waste oftentimes start with a tip from a concerned citizen. The state also operates an Employee Suggestion System that rewards employees for “creativity” and “involvement.” The system seeks state employee “suggestions that provide tangible monetary savings.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an Efficiency Project on Dec. 17 during an event commemorating our organization’s 20th anniversary.
“Transparency, accountability and efficiency promote the people’s faith in good government,” Hutchinson said. “The citizens of Arkansas deserve a critical evaluation of their state government to ensure the cost-effective delivery of services and to ensure that state employees have every possible means necessary to maximize their effectiveness.”
One idea: the project has the potential to preserve and protect the financial integrity of the State of Arkansas.
The Efficiency Project is supported by leading Arkansas business people and professionals. One goal is to review state government. Another is to develop recommendations to make state government more cost-effective.
The project is nonpartisan, and will allow an independent group of citizens to volunteer to improve the operation of state government. The project will also include analysts with specialized knowledge. Findings and recommendations will be publicly reported when the Efficiency Project completes its work later this year.
Other Arkansas governors have advanced the idea of efficiency. Republican Winthrop Rockefeller (1967-1971) proposed a state government reorganization. His ideas advanced under his successor, Democrat Dale Bumpers (1971-75), according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
An entry notes, “Much of Rockefeller’s legislative agenda was adopted by Bumpers, including the plan to reorganize state government management from hundreds of disparate agencies into a small group of departments.” Bumpers’ entry notes, “He gained legislative approval of several major reforms that Rockefeller had championed but had been unable to convince the Democrat-controlled state legislature to enact.”
The Efficiency Project seeks to identify potential cost savings in state government with the help of citizens, state employees, analysts and other stakeholders committed to Arkansas’ future.