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Firm suggests savings

BY JOHN DOETKOTT | DECEMBER 11, 2009 7:30 AM

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The state Board of Regents is asking its institutions to explore 19 new cost-saving opportunities following a consulting firm’s investigation into the entire state’s budget crisis.

The regents’ Board Office recently released a 100-page reaction to the findings from consulting firm Public Works LLC, agreeing in principle to 17 of its 19 recommendations for the regents.

Gov. Chet Culver hired the firm in August to investigate possible cost-cutting measures throughout the state government, including the regents institutions.

The majority of the firm’s recommendations dealt with efficiencies in information-technology services. Recommendations included the creation of a “cabinet-level” IT agency to consolidate planning and operations, and the consolidation of e-mail services, something the UI is already working toward.

Regent President David Miles said officials would look to build on work underway and would collaborate with other state agencies to improve efficiency.

One of the firm’s recommendations dealt specifically with such cooperative initiatives, encouraging collaborative purchasing efforts among agencies — such as one-time bulk purchases of computers for various government entities. The UI spent $651 million in fiscal 2009 on equipment and supply purchases. The Board Office’s reaction letter said the regents have always encouraged university departments to make these types of purchases to get discounts.

Miles could not give any specifics about how the regent institutions would collaborate with other government agencies to reduce expenditures.

Another recommendation was to trim the fleet of vehicles used by the regent institutions. The UI alone has a total of 683 vehicles, and the regents agreed with the recommendation to reduce the number of vehicles and set minimums on total mileage before a vehicle can be retired.

UI officials met with the consulting firm numerous times to aid in the analysis.

No regent institution contributed funding to hire the firm for the state.

Miles said he found the firm’s analysis useful and said officials would begin a closer examination of how they might implement the recommendations soon.

“They are asking all the right questions,” Miles said. “I think we need to start as soon as we can.”

He called the firm’s four-month investigation a “quick look” into the state’s budget issues and the regent institutions could take advantage of the suggestions.

“We can benefit from that outside perspective,” he said. “I want all the institutions to take a fresh look at it.”


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