Monday, November 9, 2009

Implementation of Shared Services

Last year, an omnibus modernization bill (HB 1032), made accessing state services more convenient for vendors and individuals, and could lead to the saving of millions of dollars in taxpayer expenditures.

The bill seeks to recognize that savings have been incurred by those state agencies who have modernized licensing and permitting processes by offering them online. In this way, not only are countless hours and dollars saved by the agencies who have modernized their operations, but hours are saved by the applicants who are no longer compelled to visit the local bureaucracy in order to receive service.

The economic downturn presented Oklahoma policy developers leaders with the necessity of cutting costs and becoming more efficient by adopting better practices for the incorporation of technology. Instead of reducing the level of service, this type of modernization will make accessing government services more convenient than ever before. As legislators, we should view the reduction of government revenue as being an opportunity for the government not only to become leaner but also more user friendly.

These types of technology upgrades should have occurred years ago. However, the lack of a need for cutting costs allowed inefficiency and inconveniences to remain a part of the system for several years.

For instance, applicants for motor vehicle tag renewals were not able to renew their licenses online for many years. Because of House Bill 1032, the Oklahoma Tax Commission is now preparing to offer online renewals of drivers licenses. Not to be outdone and very much concerned about a loss of revenue, Oklahoma tag agents are asking that legislation be placed into law mandating that tag agent operations also be made available online. This is just one example of where a technological improvement that should have happened years ago is now happening not only in state government but with the vendors who provide the service through state government.

The principle of making government more responsive and accessible to citizens should also be used in order to allow this same type of convenience to state agencies. By viewing state agencies as customers and allowing them to take advantage of shared services, it will be easier for agencies to deal with budget reductions by offering them more convenience and freeing them up to focus on their core missions.

The next round of modernization legislation should promote efficiency and savings through the shared use of services between state agencies. This will lead to the breaking down of bureaucratic barriers which unnecessarily wastes so many taxpayer dollars each year. Next week, I intend to write in more detail about some of the plans for enabling these services.

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