Panel created by Gov. Perdue recommends changes to procurement, IT in NC state government

By Gary D. Robertson, AP
Thursday, January 14, 2010

Purchasing, IT changes suggested by NC panel

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s purchasing and informational technology systems could be consolidated and streamlined so the state can serve citizens more efficiently while saving millions of dollars, a budget reform panel told Gov. Beverly Perdue on Thursday.

The recommendations were the first by the commission, which is similar to one that Perdue pledged during her 2008 campaign to create if elected as a way to locate waste and inefficiency in state government.

“We’re not only looking for streamlining. We’re also looking for savings,” said Norris Tolson, co-chairman of the Budget Reform and Accountability Commission, adding that the changes, if carried out, will make the state “a better place in which to do business.”

The state’s procurement operations generate billions of dollars of activity annually but it’s difficult to track whether the state is buying at a good price and how quickly products are getting to state agencies and the public, said Norma Houston, a commission member and former aide to Senate leader Marc Basnight.

“Even small improvements could have considerable impact because procurement involves virtually every unit of state government,” a commission document said.

While the Department of Administration is the main purchasing agency in state government, some agencies have their own purchasing authority while others don’t participate in the state electronic procurement program, Houston said.

Department Chief Operating Officer Kevin McLaughlin said the agency supported the recommendation and is already working toward setting efficiency benchmarks for purchasing.

Jerry Fralick, the state’s new chief information officer, told the panel he supported its recommendation to give him more authority over information technology officers in state agencies as a way to modernize computer systems while saving money.

Fralick can reject proposed agency computer projects but can’t tell them which networks or servers to use. The state spent at least $1.1 billion last year on information technology.

While improved in recent years, the state’s information technology structure remains a hodgepodge of computer systems that have trouble communicating with each other.

Some IT recommendations could require changes by the Legislature. Other suggestions can be carried out by Perdue alone.

Tolson said the commission is still reviewing several areas, including the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control system, Medicaid program and use of state aircraft. The commission also has received 400 suggestions by e-mail through a Web site.

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