Sunday, August 2, 2015

Retirement incentives and service quality: response from the Auditor General

Yesterday we mentioned a buy-out plan being pushed by Auditor General Jack Wagner, and wondered whether it paid enough attention to outcomes (because the plan leaves the state no control over who takes the buy-out, and what if it loses key employees with hard-to-replace skills?). We spoke to the Auditor General yesterday evening; he agreed that part of the challenge of such a plan was replacing people, but made the following points:

Retirement incentives and service quality: response from the Auditor General

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Auditor General Jack Wagner.
Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Yesterday we mentioned a buy-out plan being pushed by Auditor General Jack Wagner, and wondered whether it paid enough attention to outcomes (because the plan leaves the state no control over who takes the buy-out, and what if it loses key employees with hard-to-replace skills?). We spoke to the Auditor General yesterday evening; he agreed that part of the challenge of such a plan was replacing people, but made the following points:

a) He believes the state really needs to downsize;

b) You can re-structure and re-train people if you lose people in key positions. For instance, when Wagner offered a buy-out within his own department, he eliminated an entire bureau (the Bureau of State-Aided audits) and moved the people from that Bureau who hadn't taken the buy-out into other departments;

c) He says that the skills for one state government job are often transferrable to another. This comment was in response to our pointing out that when Wagner transferred auditors from one bureau to another, they were at least all auditors. Would other departments be able to move people around so smoothly? Wagner's answer: More than you think. There are departments and positions (he offered the state police as an example) where the skills have a high degree of specificity. But in many other departments, he says, people can be moved around and, after a reasonable transition period, do different jobs pretty effectively.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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