Budget director Kalbert Young with Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Gov. Neil Abercrombie with State Budget & Finance Director Kalbert Young (photo by Mel Ah Ching Productions)

Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s policy team has implemented a new “Testimony Tracking System” to “find potential conflicts between different agencies sooner rather than later” when it comes to submitting testimony to lawmakers.

Agency directors and staff are given their own log in into the system, which is officially called the “Office of the Governor Legislative Bill Tracker.”

Before testifying, they are expected submit their testimony into the bill tracking system for review and approval by the governor himself and his policy team.

The system also allows other department heads to see the testimony.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, the governor’s Deputy Director of Communications, said there was no cost to set up the internal monitoring system, which was created by the Department of Accounting and General Services after the last legislative session and implemented in time for the 2012 session, which began January 18.

All state departments, including the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii, are using the system even though the two education agencies are technically autonomous from the governor’s cabinet.

The system also allows the administration to be more coordinated and organized before presenting its views to state lawmakers and trouble shoot any problems ahead of time, Dela Cruz said.

But some state employees believe this is a statewide crackdown, not coordination.

They say state administrators are being told what legislation they can and cannot testify on and what positions to take.

They are concerned about what is being seen as a lock down on their opinion on what is best for their department and the state.

Also they see it as a lack of transparency since the web site is password protected and discussion in the system is not public.

Dela Cruz said the state administration does keep drafts on its internal web site, which are not public, but when the testimony is finalized, the state administration submits the testimony to the legislature and it then becomes public.

She said the system allows the governor and his policy team to be much more communicative with state workers and let them know where the administration stands on all the issues. The governor has the final say on testimony, she said, and he will eventually decide whether to sign the legislation that is passed out.

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