Government Oversight

By Senator Bill Diamond for the Bridgton News

Well, the Maine Legislature is done with its session, and the except for a few committee meetings over the summer and a special meeting of the Senate to review nominations by the governor, the 125th Legislature has finished its business.

One committee that meets regularly in the off-session is the Government Oversight Committee, which I serve as one of the members.

The Government Oversight Committee is unique among all of the standing committees in the legislature. While each committee has a specific area of government that it oversees, the Government Oversight Committee has, as the title implies, oversight over the all aspects of state, county and local government in Maine. As such, it has a broader authority than any other committee. Because of this power, it is made up differently than any other committee. All other committees have an odd number of members, and the membership reflects the party make-up of the legislature in general. The Government Oversight Committee, on the other hand, has 12 members — three members of each of the two major parties from both the House and the Senate. This set up is designed to ensure fairness and impartiality on the committee.

The major responsibility of the committee is to make sure that government programs and agencies are doing what they are supposed to be doing and getting a maximum value out of our tax dollars. The organization that does these studies for the committee is known as the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA). OPEGA is strictly non-partisan, and it conducts objective and independent performance audits of State government agencies and programs. They provide a valuable, objective perspective on issues. At the request of the Government Oversight Committee, OPEGA has provided studies on various agencies. Using the information provided by OPEGA, the committee has the authority to submit Legislation to take corrective action.

Their most prominent success was the inquiry into activities by the Maine Turnpike Authority, which resulted in criminal prosecution of the former director and a wholesale change in the way the Turnpike Authority is budgeted and run.

The Government Oversight Committee fills a valuable role in promoting efficiency and effectiveness in state government and making sure that government officials have a measure of accountability. We will be meeting several times over the summer and fall, and if there is anything you think that committee should take, please let me know. You can reach me at the State House by calling 287-1515 or visiting my website, to send me an e-mail. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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