HARTFORD, CT — If there’s one state agency where Gov. Ned Lamont feels at home it’s the Department of Administrative Services.
The little known agency oversees that state-owned real estate and leasing, purchasing, human resources, and information technology.
It’s the 14th state agency Lamont has visited since taking office.
Lamont called DAS the “nerve center” of state government several times during a wide-ranging tour of the offices at 450 Columbus Boulevard.
He said that if state government is going to look very different 12 years from today, “then now is the time to think about it.”
DAS is trying to figure out what state government needs and how many people it needs to run efficiently, while keeping pace with the private sector.
Lamont said his private sector experience is not all that relevant to agencies like the Department of Children and Families, but “I think at DAS we can provide most of those private-sector experiences and help them apply to the public sector.”
In the summer, Lamont and DAS Commissioner Josh Geballe announced the consolidation of the state’s human resources by the end of the year.
There are 325 human resource officers working for the state, and 124 of them, or 38%, are expected to retire in the next three years. The state plans to replace only 60 of those positions. The cost savings resulting from the consolidation of human resources is expected to be around $10 million.
An estimated 100 state employees who work in human resources throughout state government will be brought to the DAS headquarters in Hartford by the end of the year.
But that’s just one of the efforts to reimagine state government.
Noel Petra, deputy commissioner for real estate and construction services, said they are reducing the size of the cubicles DAS employees use at the agency and creating new work areas. He said they will reduce their footprint in the building by at least 30%.
He said on any given day 20% of their workforce is not in the office because their work requires them to be in the field or some personal issue.
“Instead of giving someone a workspace based on their title or the hierarchy, we are giving them a workspace based on the actual work that they do,” Petra said.
He said they are working with the Office of Policy and Management to do a review of all their office space in Hartford.
“What’s the future of real estate for our government?” Lamont asked Petra.
“Much smaller. Much, much smaller,” Petra replied.
He said they are hoping to give the private sector back a lot of commercial space over the next couple of years.
Geballe admitted it would be a challenge, but given the opportunity to save money it simply makes sense.
“We need to take the steps now to have the workforce the state needs to meet the challenges that are coming,” Geballe said.
One of the most immediate changes people will see at the agency is the business One-Stop.
Carol Wilson, director of procurement at DAS, said the program will have the intelligence to guide a business through all the state agency approvals it might need to get up and running in Connecticut in one transaction.
That’s in addition to the rollout this summer of Amazon Business Services to help state agencies purchase items that don’t require a state contract. Through Amazon they can get many quotes for what they need and now the agency can track those non-contracted purchases.
“What are the biggest purchases on the Amazon platform?” Lamont asked.
Wilson told the governor they are seeing a lot of books being purchased.
The Department of Correction buys a lot of books for the inmates, Wilson said.
Geballe said they had no idea what the agencies were purchasing before they started using the Amazon platform for these goods.
“This is a good glimpse into the centralization of the state’s business functions,” Geballe told Lamont.