Defining Effective Oversight: A Case Study of Sunset Legislation at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
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Elected bodies utilize a significant number of oversight methods to ensure that the governmental agencies entrusted with public funds are not only carrying out the will of elected officials, but are doing so in an efficient manner. The question is what constitutes effective government oversight? What are the important components of effective oversight?
The purpose of this research is two fold. First, this paper presents characteristics of effective government oversight as developed from scholarly literature related to agency evaluation. Next, the research takes these characteristics and applies them to the oversight procedure used by the Texas Sunset Review process to explore how closely the process meets the characteristics of effective oversight. To conduct this exploration, a case study of the Sunset Review process at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is utilized. In this way assessing the implementation of Sunset allows for a more complete view of effective oversight as well as a deeper understanding of the Texas Sunset Review process.
The literature provides four primary characteristics of effective oversight:
- Effective oversight is detailed
- Effective oversight is comprehensive
- Effective oversight contains an "in person" element
- Effective oversight results in legislative action
Based on the evidence provided via the case study in the form of document analysis and interviews, it was determined that the Sunset Review process as implemented at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs was 1) effective, 2) contained an "in person" element and 3) resulted in legislative action, however the evidence did not support the conclusion that the Sunset Review process as implemented at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs was comprehensive.
The paper concludes with recommendations for future research in two areas; 1) how the application of the "community of inquiry" concept, as discussed by Patricia Shields in her forthcoming article.' would improve the Sunset Review process and 2) a comparison of the Sunset staff's notes to the final sunset report as well as the Sunset staff's report to the final legislation.