Buying in bulk, renegotiating leases and using proven private market companies to provide services from desktop computers to cell phones could save the state millions and increase productivity, the governor's efficiency czar told a task force Wednesday.
Speaking to members of the Government Efficiency Task Force, Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins – named earlier this year to also be Gov. Rick Scott's chief operating officer for government operations -- said savings from such efforts would allow the state to spend those funds on critical services.
The constitutionally created body meets every four years to see how the state can be more productive and save money. This term, the panel made a goal of finding at least $3 billion in savings and efficiencies. Wednesday's meeting was its last.
Wilkins said the panel should recommend to lawmakers things that reflect changing technologies and common sense.
"There is a significant opportunity to reduce a lot of costs in our state government that we can then use as an opportunity to spend our money differently," Wilkins said.
Among the ideas is consolidating how the state makes purchases on a number of staple items that are used across agencies. Buying in bulk and standardizing the list of items across agencies can save the state millions, Wilkins said.
The state could also save millions more through tougher negotiations and more stringent contract management.
"We have to continue to remember why we hire people," Wilkins said. "We have to make sure we are not using external vendors just to perform a government function but using them to really step our game up."
For employees, Wilkins said the panel should recommend ways to single out employees for exemplary performance in a system that historically has not had the flexibility to do so.
More specifically, Wilkins suggested consolidating human resource operations -- payroll, vacation time, sick leave requests – across various agencies. A motor pool could also be shared to more efficiently use the fleet of state-owned vehicles, he said.
Another significant area of savings could be in real estate.
"We actually know where most of our real estate is now," Wilkins said. "We have an inventory, now we just have to aggressively play the game. How do we consolidate leases, how do we make more space and how do we get better work environments for our employees?"
Wilkins said he plans to have a slate of legislative proposals prepared by the end of summer.
Not included in the Government Efficiency Task Force's final list of likely recommendations is a subcommittee proposal to limit the amount doctors can charge to repackage and dispense prescription medication, largely to workers' compensation patients.
A subcommittee voted to approve the recommendation, which backers say would save businesses more than $250 million over the next four years. The issue was not included in the task force's final slate of recommendations because of what the panel chairman called "baseless allegations" of conflict of interest against some members of the panel who have ties to affected parties.
"I thought that to possibly sacrifice the work of all the members of this constitutional, voluntary task force for this issue would not be a battle worth fighting," said task force chairman Abraham Uccello. "This is an issue that will continue to appear before the Legislature."