If you’ve read my previous columns, you probably already know about Oklahoma’s wasteful and segmented system of governance. A 2007 study showed that Oklahoma has twice the number of agencies, boards and commissions when compared to states of similar size and budget. These government entities throw away taxpayer dollars in unnecessary overhead costs that could be avoided if the agencies simply worked together. This inefficiency provides the perfect opportunity for reformers to make our case.
Agencies frequently engage in turf warfare, carelessly squandering resources. Legislators see this first-hand when taxpayer-funded lobbyists go to war in the halls of the Capitol during the legislative session. Taxpayers should never be put in a position to fund this war and it is imperative for the state to prohibit this use of taxpayer dollars.
With so many different agencies in charge of your private information it is easy for data to be lost, either through malicious hacking or incompetence. During the past few years, legislative committees have heard testimony regarding these data breaches.
In one case, a state agency lost data of about a million identities. In another instance, many if not all the point of sale terminals for another state agency were compromised. This means if you have done business with that state agency, hackers might have access to your credit card information.
Some of these details did not emerge until the agencies were consolidated through the state’s IT consolidation initiative. As the consolidation took place, IT professionals started to mitigate the security liabilities. They could not even gauge the scope of this breach because the tools were not in place pre-consolidation. They had no way of knowing how compromised the state’s IT system was prior to the consolidation.
Based on these observations, we passed transparency legislation in May requiring state government to let the public know about security breaches through an online transparency portal.
Unfortunately, there’s more. I served as co-chair in another hearing and took testimony regarding a state agency that was sharing state data with the federal government! I don’t recall any legislative action specifically authorizing this data sharing, but it was happening nonetheless.
Hopefully, the new consolidated IT infrastructure will give policy makers a check-and-balance system that rogue agencies must pass before they start sharing your data with the federal government.
Safeguarding your information is why it is so important to keep government from taking your personal data whenever possible. I believe that the amount of data collected by a government is a true indicator of its size. A large government will naturally tend to collect more data, whereas a small, less-intrusive government does not have a need for the data.
I also believe this clearly makes the case for mitigating the inefficiency of so many different government agencies. It has become clear that either through incompetence or inefficiency, these many agencies are putting taxpayers at risk.
Finally, it is important to note that we have made much progress in reducing the number of boards and commissions this year. I hope to address this good news in a future article.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.