Bill improving government transparency passes House

Oklahoma City_Press Release_Oklahoma could save millions of dollars if government purchasing, licensing and payroll changes approved by the state House today become law.

House Bill 1032 creates the Oklahoma State Government Modernization Act of 2009.

"In a tight budget year, we must do all we can to make sure government is as efficient as possible," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa.

The legislation would allow for increased transparency and oversight for purchases with state credit cards.

Under the bill, the Director of Central Purchasing will be required each month to submit a list of all transactions to the Office of State Finance, which will then post the information online. Transaction details are to include the name of the purchasing agency, the amount of the purchase, and a description of the items purchased.

State entities with licensing or permitting responsibilities will be required to offer the public the option to apply or renew online if HB 1032 becomes law. In addition, each entity will provide an annual report detailing the amount of use of the online option and the amount of savings realized as a result.

Finally, the legislation also establishes tiered implementation of a more accurate payroll accounting system. If the bill becomes law, the Office of State Finance would begin taking steps to convert state payroll to a biweekly system.

The bill recommends that all new hires, beginning June 20, 2009, be enrolled in biweekly payroll accounting, with plans to eventually convert all state employee payroll to a biweekly system.

Currently, agencies often have to project ahead on a monthly payroll system and then revise those estimates with actual time worked. The biweekly system will bring better accuracy to payroll, save time and resources, and may eventually trim payroll costs.

According to the Office of State Finance, the changes will save the state $1 million in one-time savings and should deliver annual savings as well.

"This legislation will allow us as a state to take full advantage of technology and use that to provide a better service at less cost to the citizens," said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie and author of the bill. "The budget shortfall is actually good news because it will force government to do what it should have done a long time ago and make government become more efficient. I think the shortfall will allow the people to see better and more efficient services out of the bureaucracy than they normally would."

The bill passed the House with a vote of 60-37 and will now move to the Senate for consideration.