NC government efficiency effort moves along

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's latest broad examination of state government needs to present fresh and specific recommendations for cost cutting and efficiency or the effort will have little value, legislators told the initiative's top manager Monday.

The General Assembly agreed last summer to set aside $4 million through mid-2015 for the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiative, or NC GEAR. The effort, based within the Office of State Budget and Management, follows similar efforts going back 20 years to squeeze out savings or reshape agencies.

NC GEAR hired an outside consultant this spring that will receive $3 million over time to help make recommendations by the end of September based on information from state agencies and the public. Another $2 million is proposed in the House budget related to information technology would also assist NC GEAR's efforts.

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, told NC GEAR deputy director Joe Coletti that if lawmakers don't get a specific report with a bold direction for the state, then the "$4 million to $6 million — will be a complete waste of money."

The recommendations from Deloitte Consulting LLP will be reviewed by NC GEAR and Gov. Pat McCrory's staff to determine what should be in a final report to legislators in February. Some changes will need legislative approval, while others could be done by agencies. NC GEAR officials also say they're talking to legislators to help get changes passed next year, rather than have their report sit on a shelf gathering dust.

"We're really focused on how to get the ideas implemented," Coletti told the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee.

NC GEAR already has conducted meetings with 22 departments and other agencies, including the University of North Carolina and North Carolina community college systems, according to a presentation to legislators. The effort will also could review topics such as Medicaid costs, higher education tuition and state infrastructure.

"I think you have a worthy goal ... but I don't know how you're going to be able to complete this job with this scope in the amount of time we're talking about," said Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell.

Coletti said project workers are working on narrowing its focus.

"We're not going to try to boil the ocean," he said.

In an interview earlier Monday, Coletti said procurement, human resources and information technology are the top issues so far. Agencies are telling us "it's really difficult to hire people. It's really difficult to keep people who are experienced especially now that the economy's recovering," he said.

Coletti said Deloitte Consulting, which has about 10 people working on the project in North Carolina, was hired through a competitive bid process.

McCrory also announced Monday a new website where the public can submit ideas.




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