WRAL Investigates

Budget reform panel suggests purchasing, IT changes

Posted January 14, 2010 4:02 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2010 7:22 p.m. EST

— A panel organized by Gov. Beverly Perdue to locate waste and inefficiency in North Carolina government made its first recommendations Thursday, and the list includes some issues uncovered by WRAL Investigates.

A series of reports in November found state agencies spending millions of dollars for vehicles that sit idle. Agencies lease vehicles from the state Motor Fleet Management Division, which charges for a monthly minimum of 1,050 miles on each vehicle to cover maintenance, insurance and gas for more than 8,500 state-owned vehicles.

If vehicles are driven more than 1,050 miles in a month, the agency must pay extra. But agencies still must pay the minimum rate if cars travel less than 1,050 miles, which has happened increasingly over the past year as state travel expenses were cut to help with the record budget shortfall.

"Let's make sure we're using these cars, (and they're) not sitting in some parking lot somewhere collecting dust," said Norris Tolson, the co-chairman of the Budget Reform and Accountability Commission.

The commission is looking at ways to make the use of the state motor fleet more efficient, and it also is considering ways to consolidate the use of state-owned aircraft.

Another WRAL News investigation found some local Alcoholic Beverage Control administrators earning six-figure salaries, while others accepted perks from liquor manufacturers and distributors.

The state ABC Commission on Wednesday banned liquor suppliers from providing gifts to anyone in the ABC system, and they encouraged locally appointed ABC boards to implement their own gift bans and travel restrictions.

Members of the reform commission said they plan to tackle better regulation of the state-run system.

The reform panel also voted Thursday to ask Perdue to consider streamlining the state's purchasing and to concentrate controls over information technology decisions.

"The information is all over the place. It is decentralized. Some of it is still managed in paper form," commission member Norma Houston said.

State Chief Information Officer Jerry Fralick told the panel his office needs more power to effectively consolidate multiple IT systems in state government.

The commission has received more than 400 budget-saving ideas already, and it is accepting more ideas from the public. There is no estimate so far on how much the state could save through recommended changes.