Bureaucracy getting leaner, but continued progress necessary

By Dave Conrad

Quietly but steadily state government in Connecticut is getting leaner, greener, and user-friendlier. It's a culture change that's making Connecticut more responsive to businesses and more responsible to taxpayers, says Gov. Malloy.

In October, the governor released the latest report on what state agencies are doing to streamline their operations and make more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Called Continuous Improvement in Connecticut State Government, the 84-page report from the Office of Policy and Management is a catalog of streamlining efforts and the results anticipated or already in the books.

"We have continued to modernize state government," said Gov. Malloy. "From energy retrofits to reducing permit processing time from months to days, this report offers a broad look at quantifiable savings over last year: demonstrating that we're doing a better job of serving taxpayers."

Among the many improvements businesses will be interested in seeing: or may already be realizing: are these from the report:

  • Using a lean process, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) broke a logjam in industrial stormwater general permits.
  • DEEP is saving $1.84 million per year through reduced state energy bills as a result of energy retrofits via the Lead by Example program.
  • The Department of Labor (DOL), in partnership with the Chief State's Attorney's Office, created the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit, recovering over $400,000 in unemployment insurance overpayments and preventing about $100,000 weekly in fraudulent payments. The program also has led to 18 arrests.
  • DOL also leaned its unemployment insurance tax notices to get them to employers before the start of the new year: much earlier than before.
  • The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) has reviewed, renegotiated, or rebid statewide contracts for goods and services to the tune of more than $18 million savings in Fiscal Year 2013 alone.
  • DECD is implementing an online CTNEXT Contact Relationship Management System to improve Connecticut Innovations and DECD data projects and share information across their platforms. DECD said that "entrepreneurs often talk about receiving help that is significantly more energetic, respectful, and capable, with a sense of urgency in other states. To compete, we must change our culture of customer service for businesses seeking help."

CBIA has been encouraging state government to achieve that culture change: to find ways to produce and deliver services better and more cost-effectively. In our Turning the Tide report, released earlier this year, we discussed big-ticket budget items in need of streamlining and the potential for adopting best practices from other states.

Learning from Others

Several states have embraced the lean culture in every aspect of their state government. They have the results to show for it and sophisticated ways of reporting their accomplishments.

Take Minnesota, for example. The Gopher State's "Enterprise Lean" is a government-wide way of life that's reflected in a robust website and reporting mechanism.

Then there's "Lean Ohio": and another user-friendly website detailing how that state is making their government "simpler, faster, better, and less costly."

Washington state recently held its second annual Washington State Government Lean Transformation Conference. More than 2,000 people, mostly state workers, attended the two-day event.

Another impressive idea resides in Virginia, where the Virginia Performs program is constantly measuring state government, or "Measuring what matters to Virginians," as its slogan says. Virginia Performs is not just reflective of lean practices but a dynamic catalog of every part of state government: including action plans and actual performance.

What all of these states have in common is that change, often through lean, is part of their culture. And it's practiced constantly and reflected in very organized, systematic public reporting mechanisms. That's what Connecticut should be looking to adopt, embrace, and improve upon.

Dave Conrad is a senior writer at CBIA. Contact him at dave.conrad@cbia.com.