Government could share services
Government efficiency is usually an oxymoron — that is, if the government is running something, it’s not likely to be very efficient.
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be less inefficiency in government. Pursuing such is a worthy endeavor for those in elected office or those hired for top-level government jobs.
It was encouraging, therefore, to read an op-ed column this past week jointly authored by Shad White, the young reform-minded Mississippi state auditor, and Laura Jackson, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, the agency responsible for paying a lot of the state government’s bills.
The problem White and Jackson identify is that many of the estimated 204 government agencies, boards and commissions operate their own “backroom” offices. That is, they each hire their own employees to handle payroll and other accounting functions, human resources, information technology and travel services.
Besides the inefficiency of having so many employees performing the same functions but in small bites at a time, White and Jackson say another problem with the current decentralized approach is that it invites theft and fraud. That’s because in many of these operations, one or two people are doing all of the business functions, thus eliminating some of the checks and balances that are prudent whenever money is being handled.
The authors say that “it is usually not the large, well-staffed agency or commission where theft occurs, but the smaller, less regulated one. It’s the ones with less oversight and procedural safeguards, with fewer eyeballs watching the money. When fraud happens, entities with less than 100 employees have a median loss of $200,000, while entities with more than 100 employees have a median loss of $104,000.”
What White and Jackson recommend is a consolidation of administration services, in which agencies, boards and commissions would share backroom staffing in what might be described as “business office hubs.” Such centralization would be especially beneficial to the smaller boards and commissions, not only saving on staffing but also providing more expertise in purchasing, technology and other vital functions.
It would also make it easier for the Audit Department to keep everyone honest by reducing the number of money-handling operations that it monitors.
Given all of these advantages, why hasn’t this kind of administrative consolidation happened so far? The authors don’t say.
A fair assumption would be that most government entities don’t like to give up control or reduce staff, no matter how inefficient or susceptible to theft the arrangement might be.
It will be difficult to overcome that resistance. A previous effort to create an Office of Shared Services, such as White and Jackson are advocating, failed to get through the Legislature. They should, though, keep pushing the idea. It just makes good business sense.
Editor and Publisher
Because so much of retail spending occurs during the Christmas shopping season, this is the time to remind people to try to do as much of their holiday gift buying as they can with their hometown merchants.
Buying locally, though, is a good practice all year-round. If local businesses can’t make a profit, they can’t stay in business. If they can’t stay in business, our community suffers.
Even if it costs a little more than buying online, it’s a good investment.
Editor and Publisher
The high cost of freedom
Honduran authorities say a television journalist was been shot to death last week shortly after leaving his station. Security spokesman Jair Meza Barahona says that José Arita was killed after leaving Channel 12 in the north coast city of Puerto Cortes. The initial investigation suggests that four men were waiting for Arita outside and began shooting at close range. Meza Barahona says the killing could have been related to Arita’s work.
The president of the Honduras College of Journalists says that 84 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2001. Dagoberto Rodríguez says that only seven of those killings have been solved.
As Americans, we should pause and think how fortunate we live in a country where journalists don’t have to fear for their lives when they publish the truth. Freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, but even more importantly, it is protected by a legal system that effectively enforces the rule of law. The United States is a civilized society where thugs and criminals are punished and kept in check.
When we read our local newspaper or online news source, most of us don’t give this a second thought. We just assume that journalists are free and protected. But, in fact, this is not the case in most places in the world where journalists live in fear for their lives. The situation in Honduras is a stark reminder that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fragile rights that have been protected at a high cost of human blood. This should also underscore the importance of real journalism. What professional journalists report is important, so important that it’s a matter of life and death. In this age social media and amateur blogs, Americans need to support its professional news establishments. Without them, our country will soon slide into lawlessness.
Publisher of The Northside Sun and owner of Emmerich Newspapers.