Hi 16° | Lo -10°

My Turn: Executive Council contract threshold should be raised

New Hampshire’s Executive Council has a chance on Tuesday to cut government waste, improve efficiency, strengthen transparency and make it easier for local firms to do business with the state. But it isn’t a big state contract that we’ll be voting on to do all this. Sometimes, the best change you can make is when you change yourself: It’s time to raise the threshold for which items come before the Executive Council.

Today, the five of us on the Executive Council vote on essentially all state contracts of $10,000 or more and all personnel contracts of $2,500 or more (as well as key appointments by the governor and other matters). Last year, this added up to 1,431 contracts ranging from $2,500 to hundreds of millions of dollars apiece. I’ve spent most of my career in the private sector, and the idea that a multi-billion dollar organization would essentially require its board of directors to approve a $12,000 roof repair is frankly somewhat shocking to my business-minded colleagues outside government. But the truth is, government is not a business – we carry the public trust, and have higher standards of transparency and accountability. So it’s worth looking at it through the lens of what’s best for the public. And through that lens, the answer is clear.

The extensive council review process for the hundreds of smaller contracts every year is costing New Hampshire taxpayers tremendously – both in terms of bureaucratic waste and in obscuring transparency.

Leading the effort to raise the threshold all year has been our longest-serving councilor, Deb Pignatelli. I also spoke with three previous councilors before making up my mind – two Republican, one Democrat – who together represented my district for more than 32 years. Unprompted, all thought the threshold should be raised. Here’s why:

To improve efficiency and cut waste: Today, a typical contract of less than $25,000 consumes roughly 40 to 85 hours of personnel time and costs the state nearly $3,000 (as estimated by the Division of Purchase & Property Management). There are hundreds of contracts of this size (last year, 374 to be precise). Quite literally, we have dozens of state employees who spend hundreds or thousands of hours a year on paperwork on these contracts. It’s not uncommon for an agency to receive an electronic document from a vendor, print it out and ship it to another agency that makes a dozen or more paper copies for processing, then scans one into a new electronic document.

To be sure, any organization as large as the state will have some bureaucracy. And, the council is also discussing other much-needed reforms – like a project to bring more of the contracting process online, spearheaded by Councilor Christopher Sununu, and a new consent calendar spearheaded by Councilor Christopher Pappas and myself. But raising the limit is a concrete and immediately impactful step we can take now. We have a responsibility to taxpayers to be frugal with their tax dollars and tens of thousands of hours on paperwork is hardly frugal.

To strengthen transparency and accountability: Today, contracts of less than $25,000 make up 26 percent of all contracts the council reviews – but they make up roughly 0.2 percent of all funding we oversee. And by the way, 100 percent of these contracts have passed in recent years. Effectively, these small contracts are the “hay” in the proverbial haystack – lots of paper standing between citizens and the vastly more impactful “needles” – that is, the multimillion dollar contracts that often don’t raise a single question from a single councilor before passing. There’s no question that it is important for the public to see transactions big and small – which is why the state should publish quarterly reports listing even these smaller contracts, for councilors and the public to review.

But the best way to ensure both transparency and accountability is to ensure that the council review process focuses on projects that have a big impact on the state – and too often, the smaller contracts are essentially shielding them from the full review they deserve.

The Executive Council has been meeting for 334 years, and it took until 2014 for a majority of the councilors to abandon the 10,000-page deep council packets each meeting in exchange for laptops and iPads. But New Hampshire is moving forward.

Our court system has made great strides to electronic records this year, and Gov. Maggie Hassan has ordered all state business forms to be available online within the year. I look forward to the chance to vote on Tuesday to raise the council contract threshold in order to achieve better efficiency and more impactful transparency for New Hampshire citizens.

(Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern lives in Concord and represents 49 cities and towns spanning from Keene to Rochester.)

Legacy Comments2

Seems to make sense. I guess a clock and Baby Huey are correct once in a while.

Thank you Colin for the opportunity to address what you wrote about being that you "speak with forked tongue" as the Native American Indian Tonto on "The Lone Ranger" TV show would have said of you Whitey, and as "from the split tongue of a snake" plus " a treacherous person, esp. one who feigns friendship. " ""Marked by betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidious. " as in that We The People ought to call in your RSA Ch. 93-B:1-5 "faithful performance" bond of $100,000 with that "National Grange" Insurance Company at 55 West Street, in Keene, N.H., Attn: Eli, Claims Agent since you lied to us by breaking your RSA 92:2 oath of office that you would honor the N.H. Constitution and especially Article 5 in Part the Second, of thus you also are:" or: "both sides of your mouth" is a particular idiom used to explain the act of saying different things to different people about the same subject, so I have always associated this expression with the synonym "lying"... speaking out of two sides of your mouth". Thus leading to these two factors: #1 being that of your WAY of your writing or that of WHO-ever wrote this parenthesized paragraph at the end of your page D3 today of that you "represent 49 cities and towns" and so when I Article 8 instructed you to do your job you said in effect to not taking my order directly, but have to go indirectly through my Town Board of Selectmen, and so I did of that they ordered you to answer me that you have not done either! but still take your every other Friday paycheck, of thus my calling you a LIAR and a THIEF! for factor #2 of not giving your "advise and consent" to your appointed Commissioner man of The Dept. of Revenue in order to lawfully have Stephan W. Hamilton, the Deputy Commissar there send out the Tax Warrants to ALL the Article 28-a political subdivisions of this State Government, as in do you agree with the N.H. Supreme Court or the N.H. General Court? being the other two branches of government, wherein the former wrote in 1997 at: that: "The majority holds today that the present system of taxation to provide funding to meet this constitutional duty violates part II, article 5 of the State Constitution, because it is not reasonable or proportional. " nor wholesome referencing that slice of the property tax pie for the state-wide education / school tax, and that they threatened the General Court with a Receiver to collect all these unlawful taxes and return them to us as over-payments if they didn't correct such unconstitutional statute, but which Receiver has yet to be commissioned. So when you wrote at the top of column #2 on page D3 from D1 that "We have a responsibility to taxpayers to be frugal with their tax dollars" these tax dollars have to be lawfully collected to begin with of which they are not! and so your dishing out these $moneys for all these purposes make the recipients thieves in the second degree of which I've noticed them by e-mails and phone calls plus by visits to some of their offices too but that they said that they could not care less about what is supposed to be procedural due process of law, because in their mind: the end justifies the means, of thus them saying in effect of toward the rules of the game, we will cheat and that nobody will "check and balance" us as like with a compliance audit, as they say what more? we'll just $pay them off to look the other way!? This corruption has got to stop by the first act of to get rid of you Colin (age: 35, born: 1979) (at P. O. Box 193 in Concord) of to vote for your opponent in the General Election in November of will he, Timothy P. Dillon (age: 56) (at 54 Bow Street in Concord for "Do Good Services") be able to reply to your doubletalk? in this newspaper. I just left him a voice recording to please get back to me by either phone or e-mail, or regular mail. Hopefully to make this a plank on his platform to finally have this issue addressed that he will do this job description to its Article 14 "complete"ness.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.