A new Department of Administration giving more executive authority to the governor would be a major step forward for government accountability and streamlining. Unfortunately, legislation to complete the long-debated restructuring proposal has repeatedly faltered, most recently over differences in House and Senate versions of the bill.
Those differences were to be dealt with by a House-Senate conference committee in advance of the next legislative session, and there is still time to do so. Let’s hope that the cancellation of today’s conference committee meeting isn’t a dark portent for next session’s reform agenda.
The cancellation was reported by The State newspaper, which noted that the sticking point on the bill is a difference over who should have authority for state purchasing. The House bill would turn over that responsibility to the governor, while the Senate bill would create a new state agency — the S.C. Contracts and Accountability Authority — to handle it.
Each version of the bill would give the state’s chief executive broad administrative responsibilities as in virtually every other state in the nation. Those include property and fleet management, human resources and information technology.
Procurement and purchasing are governed by state law, and should be administered accordingly by the governor.
Doing away with the Budget and Control Board in favor of a coherent system of state governance would be a major accomplishment. The five-member board is unlike any other in the nation, and gives the two legislative budget committee chairmen a vote equal to that of the governor on a broad range of issues.
That larger reform goal is so important that it shouldn’t be allowed to fail on the procurement issue.
But this is a case where less is more, and the House plan should prevail.