Cutting government waste and eliminating bureaucratic red tape will be just two of the goals of a new joint oversight committee created by legislative leaders today.
House Speaker Loyd Benson and Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor announced the creation of the Joint Committee on Accountability in Government, saying the new panel would serve as a watchdog over the state's hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions.
"I think it's in the best interest of the taxpayers to have a watchdog out there, making sure we have the leanest, meanest government possible. With the tight budget times we're facing, it's especially important to ensure we're getting the best bang for every buck we spend," said Senator Taylor.
"The people of this state do not want their tax dollars wasted by needless bureaucracy and inefficient programs and we intend to tighten controls on expenditures of the people's money," said Speaker Benson
According to the legislative leaders, the panel's main goal is to increase the efficiency of those agencies, boards and commission, making sure they serve the people in the best way they can. Its overall objectives include:
Before the creation of the new oversight panel, there was no formal entity in place to keep tabs on the numerous agencies and state programs which comprised state government. That responsibility was carried out informally by the executive and legislative branches.
"We did look at the creation of an independent program evaluation office last year," Benson added, "to ensure that Oklahoma taxpayers are getting the most efficient use of their tax dollars. That effort, plus the work we have done with agencies on zero-based budgeting programs to eliminate waste and inefficiency, will help us hit the ground running."
"We felt it was important to have a standing committee place to get a better handle on this thing we call state government. We didn't want anything falling through the cracks," said Senator Taylor.
The committee membership will be divided evenly between the State House and Senate with the Speaker and the Pro Tempore making the appointments. The chairmanship will alternate annually between the two houses with Senator Jeff Rabon serving as the first committee chairman.
"It's my hope that the committee can serve as an extra check and balance for the people of Oklahoma, guaranteeing that they're getting their money's worth out of the state. If government isn't working for the people, then it isn't working at all in my opinion," said Senator Rabon.