House passes ‘Back Office Consolidation Act’

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The state recently consolidated all of its information technology functions under a single agency. It might soon do the same for “back office” functions like accounting and payroll.

Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) sponsors HF418 that would fund a benchmarking study on the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s accounting, finance, procurement and human resources operations across state agencies. The Department of Administration would contract for the study and report back to the Legislature with a plan to implement any recommended changes.

Downey, who sponsored the legislation that led to the IT consolidation under the Office of Enterprise Technology, hopes the bill might help get the ball rolling on a similar consolidation of the back office functions of government.

“These are the functions of government that frankly aren’t adding value. They aren’t essential to the program functions. They’re just the day-to-day work that has to be done,” Downey said.

He noted that the state recently implemented new standardized accounting software (Statewide Integrated Financial Tools, or SWIFT) that should he said make consolidation easier.

Passed 75-56 by the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Ted Daley (R-Eagan) is the sponsor.

Some members raised concerns about the bill’s funding mechanism, which proposes using potential cost savings generated by the results of the study itself or savings gained from the IT consolidation. Critics argued that amounted to spending imaginary money.

“I think it’s basically a good idea, but I think it would be a better idea if we had a way of paying for it,” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls).

Downey said the funding mechanism might be revised if the bill goes to conference committee.

He also successfully offered an amendment that would allow the study to include the Legislature, if the Legislative Coordinating Commission requests it.