La. works to remove unnecessary contracts
As Louisiana’s budget problems continue to be a headache for lawmakers and taxpayers, it makes sense to review the existing contracts and identify which ones to eliminate.
The issue was a major talking point two years ago, with state officials calling for fewer outside contracts as a way to reduce spending. Debate on the topic has softened since then, but that hasn’t stopped Gov. John Bel Edwards from trying to fix the problem.
Soon after he took office, he issued an executive order that required all executive branch agencies, boards and other panels to look at every contract and find ones that are unnecessary.
The effort seems to be working. The Advocate reported that state contracts have dropped from 14,125 in July 2016 to 10,551 this July.
Jay Dardenne, commissioner of administration, said the state will continue to see a drop in contracts. But U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., has his doubts, calling the numbers “nonsense.”
Kennedy, a former state treasurer and one of Edwards’ biggest critics, went so far as to say the Edwards’ administration budget leaders “can’t count.” One issue he has is that the numbers may be way off.
According to a 2015 report, the state auditor mentioned that because agencies don’t have to report everything, getting an exact number of state contracts is impossible. The report listed nearly 14,700 reported contracts, but also mentioned roughly 5,000 contracts that weren’t tracked. The report was done when Gov. Bobby Jindal was in office. Finding out the precise number of state contracts is something that should be addressed. But there have been some improvements. New technology has helped show which contracts are still in place and those that aren’t and can be removed.
The state is also relying more on its own agencies for contracting, instead of outside companies. This July, Louisiana reported just over 600 more contracts with its own agencies than it did two years ago.
Edwards said the state has cut contracts by 30 percent in two years. But, according to Kennedy, the Edwards administration shouldn’t be boasting until they know exactly how many contracts are out there.
There has been progress in trying to cut the number of state contracts, especially those with outside companies. But we haven’t reached the finish line, and state officials should continue to work on getting a definitive number.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, retired editor Jim Beam and retired staff writer Mike Jones.