It’s a safe bet most Texans haven’t heard of the Department of Information Resources. It’s hummed along under the radar for years, generating revenue by selling services to other state agencies. After a scathing Sunset Commission report, State Rep. Byron Cook is ready to shut it down.
According to their website, DIR provides “statewide leadership and oversight for management of government information and communications technology.”
Mr. Cook told me today he wants to sunset the agency — that is, close its doors. Under Texas law, agencies are periodically reviewed to see if they still are meeting the goals that the legislature set when establishing. In recent years, Sunset has usually been a vehicle to grow government, with few entities actually seeing the sun set upon them.
Not so with DIR, which Mr. Cook is ready to delete from the roster of state agencies. The Corsicana Republican isn’t ready to totally shutter that particular function of government. Instead, he tells me some of the functions – like procurement – could be merged with the broader procurement functions at the Office of the Comptroller.
What’s left of the agency functions would be re-formed into a new agency with an oversight commission and more legislative accountability than now exists. Because DIR currently is directly funded through general appropriations, Mr. Cook tells me, it makes it more difficult for the legislature to determine if it is being run efficiently and effectively.
Under Mr. Cook’s plan, the agency would no longer “sell” services to other agencies, but be an available resource. They would be funded directly through the general revenue state budget.
There will no doubt be defenders of the current agency structure, but Mr. Cook’s concern about appropriate legislative oversight should not be casually dismissed. And while I suspect the switch won’t save much from the state budget (though a little, probably), the proposal deserves serious consideration as lawmakers look to enhance efficiency and scrape together every dollar they can.