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As Long as We Remember...

March 2, 2007

Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency in Government

George Wenschhof

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it? But this is exactly what Gov. Martin O'Malley intends to achieve with his administration.

On February 22 the O'Malley Transition Team, chaired by Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, presented the governor its report. It consisted of 21 individual reports covering various government agencies and policies.

These reports contain recommendations aimed at improving Maryland's state government. They were compiled by countless volunteers from all over the state, including several from Frederick County.

Amazingly, these reports are available online for anyone to read. This makes it easier for folks, including me, to access and to read at their convenience.

No, I have not read all 1,000 pages of the combined reports; but I have skimmed through a few that covered topics of interest to me. I was impressed with the professional approach which was taken in these presentations.

You can easily access them by clicking on this link - Welcome to the Office of the Governor of the State of Maryland. On the Home page click on "Press Releases" located on the left margin and then click "Transition Report."

Now, the more informed political junkie and skeptic would say, "Hey, don't all new administrations compile transition reports"? The answer is yes and, in fact, the O'Malley administration is also reviewing transition information and other reports compiled by former Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration.

Locally, an attorney friend of mine who is a Republican - yes, I have Republican friends - served on a transition committee that prepared a report on efficiency in government for the former governor.

In about six weeks Governor O'Malley intends to meet with his cabinet secretaries to hear their suggestions after they have reviewed the recommendations of the transition team.

The difference from previous administrations is that one objective will be to establish performance measurements within these agencies. These measurements will hold the agencies accountable for their performance and lead to more effective services.

Interestingly, more efficient government has for many years been the mantra attributed to the Republican Party; but they have failed to implement any substantive changes at the local, state, or federal level.

Governor O'Malley has changed this perception, when, as the Mayor of Baltimore, he instituted CitiStat. His brother, Peter O'Malley, along with Matt Gallagher, developed CitiStat, a performance measurement driven system, to help manage city departments.

Peter O'Malley has moved on to be chief of staff to Baltimore County Executive James Smith; and Matt Gallagher is now deputy chief of staff to the governor.

So, expect StateStat to be coming soon to Maryland. Already in the works are BayStat and CorrectStat aimed at helping improve the state's correctional facilities and better manage the treasured resources of the Chesapeake Bay.

Taxpayers deserve efficiency in government, and this should be the objective of all elected officials, regardless of political affiliation.

The main area politicians have focused on over the years is the level of funding that agencies receive to implement or administer various programs.

But this approach has not resulted in more efficient and productive government services. Instead, the level of services has merely increased or decreased as a result of changing funding levels.

Government that is more accountable, efficient and transparent should be a bipartisan goal. With the state facing a projected $1.4 billion structural deficit in fiscal year 2008, it just makes good sense.

It is time our elected officials across the state follow the governor's lead and focus on results, not rhetoric.

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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