A big report about required reports in Texas

AP/Houston Chronicle:

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is declaring there are too many state reports.

It says so in a 668-page report.

The project took 18 months and included the commission's small team canvassing more than 170 agencies, and public colleges and universities, checking on all the reports they are assigned to do.

In the past, the state regularly compiled a list of about 400 reports that agencies were required by the Legislature to produce. But the commission found more than 1,600, and state records administrator Michael Heskett is pretty sure his team hasn't found them all.

Heskett's initial findings indicate more than 400 report requirements are obsolete, duplicative or not needed as frequently as currently required.

"At first, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of reporting requirements," Heskett said. "We haven't begun our evaluation yet. But I think we can reach our goal of eliminating the deadwood without compromising the need for accountability in our state agencies."

Agencies stand to save thousands of staff hours and tons of paper, although the commission hasn't estimated yet exactly how much of either, Heskett said.

In a typical legislative session, lawmakers call for about a dozen new reports to meet the requirements for a new law. Another 20 or so reports are attached to appropriations bills as a way of making sure allocated money is properly spent.

Unless these reports are repealed by the Legislature, agencies are required to prepare them, even if the need for the report — or the agency — no longer exists.

One of the obsolete reports is the Funds Received and Disbursed report. One of the oldest required reports, it is still dutifully done, though there's a report under the Uniform Statewide Accounting Act that requires much the same data, Heskett said.

Report 1473 calls upon the Department of Aging to prepare a report, although the Department of Aging no longer exists.

There are still report requirements for the Human Rights Commission, which the Legislature abolished in 2003, Heskett said.

The Texas Workforce Commission is required annually to report on creating equal opportunity guidelines for employees that have been in place for years and are in no need of re-creating.

...

This gives us one clue as to why government seems to have so much difficulty getting anything accomplished, besides, that is, writing reports. The legislature does the same thing to the private sector. The number of reports and man hours required to create and file them is enormous. However, the private sector is a little better at letting the government know when a report is no longer needed.

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