House Speaker Charles McCall recently announced a new initiative that will further increase the oversight of state agency governing boards and the programs and services they approve to serve Oklahomans as well as their spending of taxpayer dollars.
House committees are being assigned to monitor more than three dozen state agencies and identify legislators to attend governing board meetings as necessary – including attendance at private executive sessions as authorized by state law. This will allow legislators to be better informed about the ongoing work of our state agencies and the boards that govern them, and will allow us to monitor whether state appropriations are being used as intended. It also will help us ensure enactment of new and existing laws, including rulemaking, is consistent with legislative intent and results in the best method possible for the delivery of services to the public.
As chair of the House Transportation Committee, I already attend regular Transportation Commission meetings. I know other House members attend these and other agency meetings as well. But this latest move will increase our oversight of the work of these agency boards, the services they oversee for Oklahomans and their approval of the spending of taxpayer dollars.
Oklahoma has nearly 200 agencies, boards and commissions. More than 60 of those receive appropriated dollars from the state’s General Revenue Fund, much of which comes from various income or sales taxes. Other agencies, boards and commissions receive pass-through funding via fees paid for their services, which also is overseen by the Legislature. It is incumbent upon us to make sure these entities are performing as designed and operating in the most transparent and efficient manner possible. I’m sure most of them are, but prior work has shown that there are some areas in need of improvement.
In 2017 and 2018, for instance, we discovered some financial accounting errors at the state Department of Health that resulted in the loss of jobs and services for some Oklahomans. While we were able to discover the source of the problem and make leadership changes at the Health Department, we want to make sure this type of thing does not happen again.
This is the No. 1 job voters elect representatives in state government to perform – oversight of tax dollars and ensuring they are being used as intended to deliver core government services to those in need.
This latest initiative builds on several years’ worth of work by the House to improve the performance, efficiency and transparency of state government. These efforts began in 2016, when the House launched more robust budget hearings for the largest state agencies. In 2017 and 2018, the House exposed waste and mismanagement at agencies through agency accountability hearings. In 2019, the Legislature created the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, which next year will start providing legislators with independent budget information and agency performance reviews.
I’m glad to participate in this effort. I will keep you posted on our progress.
Avery Frix serves District 13 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7302 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.