ONCE AGAIN, the city has been provided with a superficial study of a complicated issue. We have in mind the Report to the Mayor on the Organization and Management of Human Resources Services for the District of Columbia, which was supposed to tell Mayor Washington the most effective way to run the Department of Human Resources. A blue-ribbon panel of 35 academicians and analysts from across the country was convened at the turn of the year and chaired by Philip J. Rutledge, the creator and previous director of DHR. For five months the panel interviewed DHR staff and reviewed numerous reports and audits of the department, assessed comparable "delivery systems" in other states and developed several "organizational options" for providing service here. The end result of all this labor? The oldest refrain in the bureaucratic game: Everything will be all right if you'll just get organized .
What would a good accounting of DHR's problems and potential have included? First, a judgment of what services ought to be provided by DHR - and how. Next, there would certainly have been an appraisal of the quality of existing services and what, if any, needs are still going unfulfilled. But the panel merely asserts that the answers to these and related questions do not exist within the District government. And so, for lack of answers, it thereupon recommends that DHR keep on conducting business as usual, while employing a temporary "executive deputy director for management improvement" to make it work more efficiently.
Mr. Rutledge and his committee should have considered giving the city something more than a management-efficiency study. They might have tried to find out, for example, why no one could provide a total operating budget for DHR for any of the past five years. Or why some programs are so fragmented that there is often a loss of revenue to the city. Or why there are no priorities within the department. They might even have talked to the recipients of DHR's services to find out whether the agency's programs really make a difference.
Maybe some of these issues will come to light as the city council's task force on DHR evaluates the Rutledge report and makes its own recommendations. In the meantime, the mayor should not presume that he's got the answers to how to run DHR. He doesn'teven have the right questions.