Lawmakers propose new state IT department

Nov 15, 2011

A legislative panel has proposed creating a state information technology department. Currently, the Department of Administration and Information oversees most IT matters. and some agencies also have their own technical departments. The new system is meant to streamline IT services by creating one big pool of employees who could move around between departments.

Representative Mike Madden is vice chair of the Management Audit Committee, which proposed the change. He says departments and agencies currently have to go through a lot of red tape to make even small technology-related purchases.

“If they wanted to buy a new mouse or something like that – might cost twelve bucks – they have to go through an application to the A & I department, and then it would go to the computer information systems, and then it would be approved or not approved," Madden said. "And they were just to nit-picky about small purchases that didn’t matter.”

Madden says the new IT department would have the discretion to purchase equipment under a certain price without going through all the bureaucracy.

Madden also says the proposed department could save the state millions of dollars. That’s partly because it would have a different kind of budgeting system, called a zero-based budget system,  “where you start out every year with every expenditure starting at zero, and you have to justify it – you know, a department head would have to justify it right from the beginning.”

In contrast, Madden says, the standard budgeting procedure uses last year’s expenses as a baseline. That sometimes makes sense, but Madden says when an agency upgrades a computer system and hires new staff to set it up, those employees often end up staying on the payroll indefinitelym, which he says is wasteful. Under the new system, the centralized IT staff could undertake those tasks.