If Bobby Jindal wants to cut government waste, here’s an idea

Suggestion-box

By Robert Mann

Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to give a private management consulting firm — Alvarez & Marsal — $4 million in state funds to help find ways to save the state money.

Saving money sounds great, right? Who could be against that?  Of course, that presumes that Jindal and the Legislature would actually enact the suggestions the consultant makes.

Most likely, Jindal isn’t so much looking for cost-savings. If he really cared about that would he have waited until the beginning of his seventh year in office?

This is really about Jindal’s nascent presidential campaign. He has hired a consultant, with your state dollars, to produce him a host of campaign talking points.

If Jindal really wanted to save the state money, he wouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to enhance his presidential campaign. Instead, he would do something completely out of character.  He’d consult the people who work for him.

You know, state workers — the people he has disparaged and disregarded for the past six years.

Here’s an idea, free of charge, that will instantly save Louisiana $4 million: cancel the contract and talk with the real experts on government waste.

Jindal wouldn’t know it, but the rank-and-file employees in each department of Louisiana government could tell him quite a bit about the ways their supervisors — his cabinet officers — waste our taxpayer dollars. They see it and stew about it every day.

Jindal should find a way to ask them. Where I come from we call them “suggestion boxes.”

I’m an amateur woodworker. For a couple of hundred dollars, I’ll build a few dozen boxes to spread around state offices.

Actually, that’s probably what Alvarez & Marsal is being paid to do — interview a bunch of state employees, repackage their suggestions, put them all in a very nice folder with colorful charts, and present it to Jindal — along with a bill for $4 million.

Perhaps some state workers might want to suggest some money-saving ideas to me. If you’ll send them (anonymously) to bob.mann@outlook.com, I’ll be glad to re-post them here (free of charge). Or, just share you ideas in a comment to this post.

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17 thoughts on “If Bobby Jindal wants to cut government waste, here’s an idea

  1. Maybe this is step one in the Jindal plan to privatize the Division of Administration. He could eliminate the jobs of those in the division whose responsibility it is to do what he is hiring the consultants for and there would be net recurring savings even if the contract is renewed at $4 million per year.

    It’s hard to say how the print media will treat this, but the local TV news I just saw reported it as if this was a swell idea. Have they been asleep for the past 40 years when consultants have been hired to do dozens of studies with this very goal?

    Your idea about soliciting suggestions from state workers is a good one, but I thought he already tried that early in his first term. It has also been tried in previous administrations, including payment of bonuses to the employees based on the savings resulting from their suggestions.

    One group of state employees who absolutely should be held accountable for doing this are Governor Jindal’s very own cabinet members. I have never understood why governors, and particularly this one, do not make these people personally responsible for every dollar wasted in their departments. If they don’t know where cuts can be made, how can they possibly know enough to run these departments? And, if the answer is there are no cuts to be made why are we throwing $4 million away to tell us so.

  2. As a former member of the legislature I can assure you that most veterans of the process could on their own identify much of the waste. Most waste comes from the Department of Administration in the form of electioneering. The current administration has been the worse I’ve seen at rewarding those who doing the handiwork of the Governor.

    While I served on the board of the Office of Group Benefits, ignoring the favorable numbers, Jindal sold off of the best run health insurance department in the Nation. OGB amassed a half billion dollars in reserves while delivering outstanding service to members, acceptance by all but one hospital in Louisiana, forty-eight hour payments to providers and much lower premiums to members and the State, responsible for roughly half of premiums.

  3. How short our memories are, especially the media.

    Remember the STREAMLINING COMMISSION – just 4 or 5 years or so ago.

    Remember the books of ideas that were gathered, vetted, printed and handed out – hundreds of them, most of which are still just sitting there.

    It would not cost $4 million to go back, review these and implement the best of them.

    I suggest this would be a good, required [by the Legislature] exercise before any contracts are entered into.

    It would probably save $4 million. Your first money-saving suggestion.

  4. The latest Streamlining Commission report can be found here:

    http://senate.legis.state.la.us/streamline/

    However, there have been numerous such studies done by private contractors in the past, most of which have simply been shelved and none of which came up with anything truly innovative. Maybe you could prevail on the Division of Administration to pull some of them off the shelves so you could look at them ;-)

  5. Given that the highest paid state employees are concentrated in higher education, especially at LSU, that’s where I would look to make multimillion dollar cuts. And I would be looking to cut the dozens of six-figure administrative positions that have proliferated over the past couple of decades and their attendant swarms of staff with fat expense accounts. According to Benjamin Ginsberg’s recent book, The Rise of the All-Administrative University, university administrators get their prestige and pay raises from the number of reports they produce and how many staff are in their chain of command. Since they are in charge of the budget, there is no oversight and they will keep expanding their numbers, the size of their offices, and their salaries at a vastly faster great rate than students or faculty, raising tuition to line their own pockets. At LSU, this trend has slowed, perhaps even reversed a little, since 2008. But long term, nationally and in Louisiana, the trend is wasteful and destructive. It used to be that the profs ran the universities, taking on many administrative tasks in addition to research and teaching. That was a good deal for the state, not just financially but because the decisions were made by people invested in their community of students, parents, and faculty. The fabrication of a large, bureaucratic, professional administration at universities has resulted in vastly higher costs as well as decisions disconnected from the needs of the citizens of our state, made by people who move from state to state every few years, chasing bigger salaries and greater prestige, who care more about what is good from them and their administrator buddies than for the university and the state.

    • Welcome back to Louisiana Insider. Higher education, closely followed by healthcare for our citizens, have been Jindal’s favorite cash cow for years. He still can’t come up with a legitimate balanced budget. These areas have sacrificed 100’s of millions year in and year out while Jindal loads the board of stuporvisors with donators who know nothing about higher education (although most are rumored to possess a degree). No, Jindal needs to start with his own department and then move on to DOE and as noted listen to the people that already work for the state on how to reduce waste. The problem is he already knows the answer as he created them. He also knows what he will do to any state employee who points out the obvious. Now let’s hurry up and finish the $2 million Mike Foster Memorial.

      • It does not help to think of abstract aggregates like “higher education.” If you take apart the LSU budget you will see that despite several years of cuts, internally there have been many losers and a few winners. Just as in the US economy as a whole, the recession has made most of us poorer but a small percentage has used its control of the financial strings to become even more wealthy. Same thing at LSU. Parents pay more. Students get less. Faculty remain stagnant (or leave). But administrators manage to do very well indeed. Are you suggesting BJ asks LSU administrators for ideas on how to cut costs? Personally, I think a much better way to do so would be to restore genuine shared governance and downsize the administration by about 50%. (By the way, all of the LSU supervisors have university degrees except the chair-elect, who is also the only woman and/or minority on it, and the student member, who presumably will have one soon.)

      • My comments, especially about the LSU Board, we’re mostly tongue in cheek. Indeed almost all of these folks paid handsomely for these political appointments and will reap the rewards as they see fit ( as long as Bobby agrees ). I totally agree with your thoughts on reducing the administrative personnel for real savings at LSU and all other state funded colleges and junior colleges as well. The problem is that how to achieve the cuts that all state colleges are facing every year are developed by these very administrators and it’ll freeze in July before you hear one suggest that his or her job be eliminated to save some money. So who is going to do it? That being said, the gist of this article is about savings throughout state government and I would still begin at the DOA, then DOE, and work outward from there. As stated earlier, a book from the Streamlining Commission was created several years ago so why not just utilize it and eliminate this contract. No I would not ask LSU administrators how to save money but agree with Bob’s article to get those answers from the rank and file as they are the ones who do the real work for the state and have to witness the deadheads and waste firsthand. It would have to be done anonymously though as everyone has seen the wrath of Jindal’s paranoia.

  6. People, the A&M consultants have been meeting with all state agencies for a couple of months already. They demand copious amounts of financial and performance data and we have been working around the clock to provide the information.

    I personally met with one consultant whose task is propaganda and spin, and Lord help us all if this is the best professional that money can buy. Clearly this is just another fat check to out-of-state interests.

    Although, to be fair, Alvarez and Marsal was hired by the Dept. of Education back in 2005 to help clean up the trainwreck of the New Orleans Public School System BEFORE Katrina cleaned it out for good. When the fraud and fiscal cesspool of the system was uncovered, A&M did help to turn that mess around.

    But that was then and this is now.

    Now that we have been through “streamlining”, right sizing”, “consolidation” disasters and wholesale layoffs, what’s left to “re-engineer”?

    My agency has been cut by almost half by this administration and we are struggling to provide adequate services, a public safety nightmare in the making. We have sustained the largest percentage cut of any executive agency. When other agencies identified “efficiencies” and gave pay raises to staff after 4-5 years without, we were left with nothing and were given nothing for our staff. We were the first agency to withhold merit increases and still have not been able to give a raise to a very hardworking and fairly low paid work force, six years this month. And yet these A&M consultants are looking for new ways to cut us even further.

    What level of hell for these people?

    What more is the legislature going to allow?

    Want to save a few dollars? EASY. Cancel a $4 million contract and a few highly paid flunkies in key agencies and the fourth floor.

    • Your comment about other agencies giving 4 percent pay raises for identifying “efficiencies” is right on target. The most recent example I read about concerns the Department of Revenue. Early on, Tim Barfield had no intention of giving all of his employees a 4 percent pay raise, until the day before it was announced the Tax Amnesty Program had collected over 435 million dollars. The stated reason for the pay raise was, “agency cost cutting and being more deliberate in filling job vacancies”, whatever that means. The Department of Revenue is to keep approximately 78 million dollars “to cover the cost of running the tax amnesty program and to offset the waived penalties and fees it would have otherwise have collected”. Tim seemed to have left out this portion of the quote, “Oh, and by the way, some of the 78 million dollars I am keeping is for an ongoing 4 percent raise for all of my employees”. It sure would have been nice if the Jindal Administration and Barfield would have shared in the wealth with other agencies. Sure, his agency was responsible for collecting those overdue tax dollars, but if you use that same reasoning with DHH employees, they should be able to obtain ongoing 4 percent pay raises by using the millions of dollars collected in fines and recoups of Fraudulent Medicaid Payments. Guess I can expect to get audited this year.

      • Our little agency has been experiencing extraordinarily high turnover (which means added costs to train new people) due to low pay and hazardous working conditions. Yet our staff digs deep in their pockets to provide extras for our clients and needed food and clothing for the disadvantaged. A 4 percent pay raise for this staff would have cost less than a million dollars for half a fiscal year (the same time frame as other agencies). Yet the $$ was denied. Two agencies received nothing.

        Now that the tax amnesty program has proven profitable, what is the justification for withholding a pittance for these agencies’ staffs?

  7. How about this: these consultants only get paid on commission. How about a 4% commission rate? To earn a cool 4 Mil, the state would have to REALIZE (not just identify) $100 Mil in savings.

    And they don’t get to say ‘cut $100 million from Higher Ed and Healthcare’. either.

  8. I agree that the profs and other workers at LSU, not the university administrators, have the genuine answers to making the university run better and more efficiently. How do they do that? How do they get some control back from the professional administrators who have taken over control of LSU and are addicted to hiring ever more administrators at ever higher salaries? How do they reestablish shared governance that acts as a check on administrative avarice as well as on faculty complacency? Ginsberg offers some solutions in his book, The Rise of the All Administrative University. He is an experienced prof at Johns Hopkins Univ so has plenty of pragmatic suggestions, which include pushing to get elected faculty members on the board of supervisors, conflict of interest provisions for the board members and the university that have some bite, resisting administrative accountability measures of faculty productivity and other ways to selectively punish profs who do their jobs well but run afoul of the egotism of some petty deanlet or provoset, making sure that the media is fully aware of administrative bloat as a factor in higher education’s budget struggles, and many others.

  9. Trickle down economics: cuts from the top that trickle down to the middle class and the poor, hence leaving the middle class and the poor with more spending dollars! Revenue goes up, trickle down economics now have meaning:)))

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