Hawaii task force calls for the creation of a state CIO

A task force assigned to make Hawaii’s state government more efficient and increase productivity has released a report recommending various information technology and procurement reforms, as well as the establishment of a senior chief information officer.

The state of Hawaii is facing a $721 million budget shortfall this June and has recently announced its intentions to delay tax refunds until July 1. These numbers are largely in line with estimates from last year when the state legislature warned of a $1.7 billion budget deficit over their biennium budget period.

To address this medium and long-term crisis the legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 76, which created a ten-member group to examine the state’s operations, looking for was to make government more efficient. That body, the Task Force on Reinventing Government, is comprised of business and community leaders, nonprofit organizations and agency directors, and they released their findings in a report last month.

The Task Force met six times between October 2009 and January 2010, focused on ways to increase efficiency and create long-term productivity. Subcommittees were formed to cover the main executive-level departments and appropriation concerns, from education and health, to transportation, economic development and human resources.

Although each subcommittee had various proposals to help modernize their jurisdiction’s operations, the use of information technology pervaded most recommendations. And the need to reform procurement processes was echoed by four of the six subcommittees. In a statement about the Task Force’s report, Gov. Linda Lingle said her administration was looking to use procurement methods implemented for Recovery Act projects in other areas of government.

“The Administration has developed a pilot program to expedite projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)…We believe the ARRA model can be used to accelerate other State-approved projects,” she said.

Because the group’s recommendations rely so heavily on improved IT and reformed procurement processes, the Task Force also recommended the establishment of a dedicated state chief information officer, which is currently a combined position held by the state Comptroller, Russ Saito.

IT projects spanned the six subcommittees emphasized in the report.

  • Education – A recent survey by KPMG found that “Hawaii public school teachers are heavily burdened with administrative and support activities that reduce classroom instruction time,” and that “Academic achievement could be improved and costs reduced by changing practices to lessen the administrative burden on classroom teachers.” To alleviate this burden, the Task Force recommended installing a longitudinal database system, upgrading the existing Electronic Student Information System (eSIS) and modernizing the Electronic Comprehensive Student System (eCSS). They also urged DOE leaders to replace their existing antiquated Financial Management System (FMS) with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
  • Land and Natural Resources – The subcommittee recommended simplifying the department’s fiscal and permitting procedures for projects and activities that enhance land and natural resources. Gov. Lingle said her administration had “made strides in facilitating government on-line operations,” like renew licenses and registering business, but she also acknowledged “substantial progress is still needed.”
  • Human Resources – The group recommended implementing an enterprise information management system to integrate budgeting payroll, and human resources computer systems
  • Health – The report says a joint government and private sector task force be established to address which services should be provided by the government and which would be best delivered by the private sector. The group also said substantive improvements need to be made in health IT, and that further exploration should be taken to recommend specific projects and timeframes.

The final recommendation in the Task Force’s report called for the establishment of a new senior position reporting to the Comptroller to be the State’s Chief Information Officer. The CIO and Comptroller are currently the same position, but the group asks the legislature to dedicate funding for a separate CIO position, in charge of a statewide strategic IT planning. The CIO should also chair a monthly governance committee, the report said, comprised of all state senior IT CIOs to produce an annual master state IT budget and vision.

Gov. Lingle echoed these calls after the release of the report in statements last week, saying, “I particularly appreciate the support for our Administration’s efforts to establish a chief information officer to oversee and upgrade state information technology systems.”