The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates over 50% of the business in Oklahoma: public utilities, oil and gas drilling, production and environmental protection, aspects of motor carrier, rail and pipeline transportation, most taxis, limousine and for-hire buses, cotton gins, private water companies, and the environmental integrity of petroleum storage tank systems. The OCC also has responsibility for the proper operation of gas pumps at retail filling stations.
The FY 2012 annual report shows that OCC had over $54M in available revenue. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is an appropriated state entity that received $11.5 million in state funding in 2012 – plus they have their own court system that issues civil citations and levies fines. They also receive money from revolving funds, public utilities, well plugging, and federal grants.
My office asked the Corporation Commission these questions about 19,000+ trucking citations issued in FY 2012:
- How many of those citations were paid outright with no further action? (include a total of those dollars and cents, please)
- How many citations were negotiated out prior to hearing – and for how much, dollars and cents, total?
- Regarding negotiations: can you tell us what the difference is between what was fined, and what was actually deposited – and how many citations were affected this way?
- How many citations went to a hearing?
- Please break down the hearing results – how many citations resulted in payment to OCC (with total dollars and cents) and how many resulted in dismissal (with total dollars and cents)?
Note that these and other questions were asked of an appropriated state entity that regulates other businesses, and they include requests for a simple breakdown of citations, judgments and receivables. These questions have to do with basic accounting and record keeping. One would imagine the answer would be forthcoming in a financial report or spreadsheet within a matter of minutes.
The response came in letter form from the Chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to the Honorable Brian Bingman, Senate Pro Tem. I was delighted to see that Senators Ron Justice (Vice Chair of Appropriations), Clark Jolley (Chair of Appropriations) and Gary Stanislawski (Transportation Chair) were copied on the letter.
“No log or database is yet available to answer these questions, and the personnel hours to pull each individual license or citation are estimated to exceed 1000 hours (4-6 minutes per citation for 19,000 citations). In this event, we will likely need additional personnel to meet this request and any future requests from Senator Allen.”
The letter ends with, “To be responsible with the resources entrusted to us, we felt compelled to inform you of this possible supplemental budget request.”
1000 man hours and extra personnel to answer simple accounting and record-keeping questions? My office has a more business-oriented solution.
It is beyond comprehension that 17 years after remote, real-time access to databases became commonplace in the private business sector, a state entity that regulates over 50% of the business in Oklahoma, has yet to update their computers, build a database and make better use of technology. The answer is not to request more money; the answer is that the antiquated Oklahoma Corporation Commission should comply with the same basic financial reporting they require from the businesses they regulate. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission must utilize a system by which field officers enter citation data in real time. This will prevent the opportunity for corruption and provide the Legislature with immediate, actionable insight into citation practices. Save the money on 1000 man hours and extra personnel, and do the work in less than ten minutes on a computer.