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GOP leaders: NC legislature watchdog agency to be shuttered

The North Carolina General Assembly’s state government watchdog agency will soon be shuttered, according to the offices of the legislature’s Republican leaders.

State law created the nonpartisan Program Evaluation Division in 2007, making North Carolina’s legislature one of the last in the country to create such an office.

The division, monitored by an oversight committee of legislators who directs the agency’s work, has issued scores of reports over the years that located wasteful spending and recommended efficiencies. A Feb. 8 division report projected the state could save up to $2 million annually if its mobile devices and services were better managed.

The findings by the division, which employs more than a dozen researchers and other staff, were not always embraced by committee members and the agencies who were targeted. Other committee members praised the division’s work.

Spokespeople for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said this week that the General Assembly wanted to use other bipartisan oversight methods to address agency accountability.

Leadership “is evaluating its current oversight functions to improve outcomes and remove duplicative processes. By reinvigorating an existing bipartisan process, the General Assembly will have greater flexibility to examine issues in a more timely and efficient manner,” Berger spokeswoman Lauren Horsch wrote in an email.

Moore spokesman Joseph Kyzer said the new process would use joint House-Senate panels with “the authority to compel timely and comprehensive answers from public agencies.”

Horsch said on Tuesday that Berger chose not to appoint senators as members of the oversight committee for the next two years, which means no committee work or business will be considered during that period. It’s unclear whether the division ultimately would be abolished by legislation.

The division is a unit of the Legislative Services Commission, which is led by commission Officer Paul Coble. Coble, who serves at the pleasure of Moore and Berger, did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking more information.

The division currently has an acting director. The division has been led for most of its life by John Turcotte, who retired in September.

Turcotte tweeted Monday his unhappiness with the shuttering of the division, which he said receives $2 million in funding annually. The agency’s annually recurring savings achieved through its reports have outpaced its operating costs by a ratio of over 20-1, Turcotte wrote.

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