Sunday, August 16, 2009

Creating an Inventory of State Assets

It is my belief that Oklahomans expect their elected officials and government leaders to manage their resources in the same efficient manner that a privately owned business would manage its affairs.

Can you imagine a private business entity that went about its business in such a disorganized manner that it was unable to give you a centralized inventory of its real property assets? It would not take long before that business was out of business if they did not have a basic organization structure that could account for this most important of internal control tools.

This is exactly the state of affairs in which Oklahoma state government has found itself. While many state agencies keep their own separate inventories of properties owned, there has not been a centralized location in which state leaders could review the status of the state's assets.

Without this basic tool in place, it is almost impossible to know how much property is owned by state government that is no longer serving its needed purposes and should therefore be returned to the private marketplace. It is also much more difficult to have internal controls to ensure that state property is not susceptible to corruption.

In 2004, the newly appointed director of Oklahoma's Department of Central Services (DCS) commissioned an effort to begin the painstaking process of documenting the location of thousands of acres of state-owned land. This procedure involved DCS officials going to the individual agencies and sometimes county government officials such as assessors or county clerks to try and find out what exactly the state owned. Five years later the study has yet to be completed.

As this inventory has continued to accumulate, it provides an important tool that state leaders can now use to analyze what has happened over the years as state government has taken over this land.

The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Ken Miller, has asked House Staff to study this growing list in an attempt to explore how the state should be most accountable to the taxpayers now that we are starting to understand exactly what the state owns. You may also soon have an opportunity to help in this process. The Director of DCS has indicated that the list will be available in the future on the state's web portal for everyone to see.

It is my personal belief that state government should relinquish all state assets that are not necessary to perform its core functions. This would allow the private marketplace to use the assets for their intended purposes. And it is about time that the very basic step of providing a centralized inventory of state-owned properties was completed.

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