State government needs to be run, not reviewed

February 3, 2014 

The McCrory administration is about to undertake an effort to review and assess state government with an eye toward reducing waste or wrongheaded practices.

And this won’t be just an auditor with a sharp pencil. This has real money behind it. Last session, the General Assembly gave the executive branch $4 million through mid-2015 to fund the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiative.

Everyone supports efficiency. No one defends waste. This would seem to be an undertaking all would endorse. Except this efficiency project seems wasteful and the prospect of reform unlikely before it even begins.

The $4 million is aimed at no ostensible target and prone to be wasteful itself. And, despite the legislative funding, it starts without legislative patrons who could turn its recommendations into laws.

Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, co-chairman of a legislative panel that examines efficiency and program performance in state government, told The Associated Press that reform ideas coming from the executive branch may be orphans.

“The problem is not going to be whether there will be recommendations or whether they’ll be good or bad. It’s whether or not there’ll be enough will to implement what is recommended,” he said.

This, of course, continues the governor’s theme of fixing “broken” state government. But we wish he and his top officials would stop talking about fixing government and start running it.

Operations at the Department of Health and Human Services have deteriorated since DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos started applying her efficiency ideas a year ago. The Department of Commerce and the state’s business recruiting efforts lie partially disassembled awaiting an overhaul. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is promoting “customer service” toward those it’s supposed to be regulating.

State government has inherent inefficiencies and a bureaucratic culture. The people in charge of it need to make it run as well as it can. Constantly claiming it’s broken is only a form of user error.

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