As I have described in this space on many occasions, the House Legislative Oversight Committee, which I chair, is not a policy committee but an investigating committee charged with the responsibility of reviewing all state agencies on a seven-year recurring cycle. This must be done in an open and transparent manner to determine if agency laws and programs are being implemented and carried out in accordance with the intent of the laws creating the agencies, and to make recommendations as to such agency laws and programs – whether the same should be continued, curtailed, or eliminated.   

Since the committee’s inception, we have continuously worked to modify, improve and make more efficient the annual reporting requirements of state agencies and the use of the reports. Promoting efficiencies across state government continues to be among our focal points.    

A benefit of the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s process is the ability for legislators to identify and bring attention to issues that affect multiple agencies and, ultimately, the state government’s use of the people’s money. 

One such issue is redundant data manual entry. Initial inquiry prompted by the committee notes more than 30 state agencies report some amount of redundant, manual entry of data from another state agency. Essentially, state employees in different agencies are entering the exact same data.   

Initial inquiry indicates this amounts to more than $100 million in state resources (e.g., employee time and salary) devoted to performing these redundant and repetitive tasks.

The committee promotes agency efficiency and effectiveness in operations. State government efficiency could be improved by reducing the number of times the data has to be entered and agency efficiency could be improved by reducing the chance for human error in the manual entry. 

For example, between May 2014 and January 2020, at least 40 inmates were detained past their release date due to inadvertent errors in calculation and data entry. This resulted in the Department of Corrections holding inmates at least 7,549 additional days, or almost 20.5 years, requiring additional state expenditures of almost $500,000. Agency effectiveness could be improved through reallocation of these resources to other pressing needs.

Identification of issues is only a first step. Increased inter-agency collaboration and planning is key to ensuring future procurements will afford an opportunity for non-sensitive data to be more freely shared among state agencies using technology rather than repetitive manual data entry. 

Our agency studies now require reporting as to which other agencies use or need the same data, what efforts or plans have been made to collaborate, and what obstacles, if any, prevent the non- sensitive data sharing and reduction in redundant work by the state.   

Over two centuries ago, Ben Franklin wrote, “Haste makes waste.”  State agencies should heed his words even today because the past haste to meet individual agency needs has led to waste through missed opportunities to share data.

It is an honor and privilege for me to serve you in the House of Representatives. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.