Thursday, May 01, 2008

Same as it ever was in Transportation

During the last year of Ernie Fletcher's term as governor, the Transportation Cabinet made some significant improvements in efficiency and cost savings.

Key among them were two initiatives. One was a ban on most employees driving state vehicles to and from work. The other was a near-total ban on the use of the Internet for non-business purposes.

These two moves saved thousands of dollars.

In less than six months in office, in a time of a supposed budget crisis, Steve Beshear's administration has undone both of these efficiency initiatives.

Under new vehicle use policies implemented by former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert, the number of employees allowed to drive state vehicles to and from the state's 12 district highway offices was vastly reduced. Only county foremen and the district's safety officer were allowed to commute to work in state vehicles, and that was because of the nature of their jobs. Previously, employees such as branch managers, maintenance engineers and even the highly-paid chief district engineers drove their assigned state vehicles to and from work instead of their personal vehicles.

Now, when gas prices have reached an all-time high, current Secretary Joe Prather has reversed course. Many highway department employees once again are driving to and from work in state vehicles, with taxpayers paying for gas and for vehicle wear-and-tear.

Where's the cost savings in that?

Last summer, Transportation implemented a very strict Internet usage policy that was tougher than the statewide standard enforced by the Commonwealth Office of Technology. While the enterprise-wide policy discourages, but does not prohibit, occasional use of the Internet for personal business such as banking or online shopping, Transportation's policy banned it completely. This was done in an effort to increase efficiency in the workplace.

Yesterday, Prather rescinded Transportation's policy and instead decreed that henceforth, Transportation will follow the COT policy in effect for all state agencies. That act, combined with the repeal of the ban on visiting political blogs, means that once again, state employees can read up on political gossip or order stuff from Amazon.com without fear of punishment.

But they shouldn't get too overconfident. The COT policy still specifically prohibits, among other things, eBaying, posting to blogs or expressing political opinions over the state network. That stuff will have to wait until they get home.

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