Budget & Tax

Ray Carter | January 28, 2020

OMES savings partially offset by increased fees

Ray Carter

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) will request $12.7 million less in state appropriations this year. But those savings will be partly offset by a planned increase in the fees OMES charges other agencies for information technology (IT) services. And those fees, which will cumulatively total more than $3 million, will in many instances be covered by increased appropriations to other agencies, reducing state savings.

The latter point did not go unnoticed by lawmakers at OMES’ budget hearing this week.

“Will there be an overlap?” asked Rep. Charles Ortega, an Altus Republican who chairs the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on General Government. “In other words, we’re budgeting you to be able to provide for the agencies but also agencies are requesting a budget request for IT.”

Steven Harpe, director of OMES, said that even after accounting for the cost of IT fee increases, OMES’ overall appropriation will be less.

Harpe, who was named director of OMES earlier this month by Gov. Kevin Stitt, also said the agency has revised its IT fee structure and the impact on other agencies will be less than what was initially projected.

Several years ago, all state government IT services were consolidated in OMES. This year, complaints about surging OMES IT rates have been a common theme during budget hearings for many state agencies.

Harpe told lawmakers the rate issue now “may be a little different than what you’ve heard from the agencies.”

Under the rates OMES currently plans to charge other agencies for IT services this year, Harpe said 61 percent of 189 state agencies and affiliates will see a decrease in rates, while 10 percent will see no change. Another 20 percent will face a rate increase of 2 percent or less, while 9 percent of agencies will see increases of more than 2 percent.

Harpe said the entities facing rate increases greater than 2 percent include 38 state agencies or other government entities. The Center for Excellence, a data center run by OMES that handles information for some agencies, represents most of the increased cost for those facing the largest rate increases, Harpe said.

For example, the Department of Corrections faces the largest increase in OMES rates for IT services this year, Harpe said. The prison system’s rates will increase by 59.59 percent. Harpe said “the majority” of that increase is due to Center for Excellence data-center services.

The Department of Human Services is expected to face $381,000 in increased IT fees from OMES.

The District Attorney’s Council previously expected to face a 47-percent increase in IT rates. But Harpe indicated the increase could be lower based on the revised process for calculating those rates.

“In fairness, if you’re still hearing from agencies that are upset about their rates, the truth is we just finished this model and making sure the math was accurate within the last week, week-and-a-half,” Harpe said. “We still have a lot of work on our side to communicate that.”

Harpe conceded that OMES has not had a good reputation for service quality in recent years, and said efforts are underway to improve the agency’s performance.

“We’re very aware of the rates conversation, but really it’s about services,” Harpe said. “I mean, we’ve had some challenges just with basic services in the agency, and we feel like in the last four to five months there’s been some significant progress.”

For example, he said the turnaround time for product delivery and installation has “improved by 75 percent.” A few years ago, it took the state 90 days from order to installation of a new computer, Harpe said. That time frame has now been reduced to 22 days and efforts are underway to reduce that figure to six days.

“We’re still getting better,” Harpe said. “Our call centers are getting better. We still have work to do in that space.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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