L.A. Controller Calls for Expanded Digital Government Services to Assist & Engage More Angelenos 

LOS ANGELES — L.A. Controller Ron Galperin today called for the City of Los Angeles to expand online and remote services in his latest report, “A Stronger Connection: Expanding Digital Government Services.” Galperin pointed out that COVID-19 laid the groundwork to more efficiently serve Angelenos by forcing the City to adapt and innovate. It has already started doing so through virtual meetings to facilitate public hearings, a telemedicine pilot program to reduce ambulance dispatches and prevent ER congestion and online training sessions for seniors. Much more can be done, according to Galperin.

“People expect high-quality services to be delivered with as much ease and efficiency as possible,” said Controller Galperin. “This is especially true and necessary during a worldwide health crisis, and necessity is so often the mother of invention. In this unique moment, Los Angeles has the opportunity to step up and be a leader in providing high-quality digital government services, an effort that must be guided by a clear and comprehensive strategy that benefits all Angelenos.”

City services are traditionally delivered in-person — a necessity for trash pick up and street repair, but not in other areas. Galperin found that L.A. has substantial room to improve its digital service delivery, arguing that in-person services reliant on paper should go digital to bolster efficiency, enhance the customer service experience and improve civic engagement.

While Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent Executive Directive on contactless government is a step in the right direction, as of today there is no overarching City strategy to enhance digital service delivery, resulting in a disjointed approach across departments. For example, permits can be obtained online from the Department of Building and Safety, but many projects — like commercial renovation projects — require permits from up to seven additional departments, all of which have different permitting processes and payment schemes.

Telework = increased productivity

Also analyzed in the report is the City’s greatly expanded telework program, which began at 30 employees before COVID-19 and swelled to more than 10,000 by March 19 due to pandemic safety concerns. Galperin found that the City’s experiment with working from home proved that telework is a sensible workforce strategy that can make department operations stronger and more resilient to emergency disruptions. He cited a survey recently conducted by the City’s Personnel Department, which found that more than 90 percent of City employees and their supervisors believed that their productivity had either stayed the same or increased since they started working from home. This is supported by public and private sector experiences, including  the federal government’s workforce.

Galperin recommended reimagining the way L.A. uses technology to serve Angelenos by: 

  • Creating a digital services strategy that includes the City’s overall vision, objectives and plan for providing digital services to the public, which should be drafted by a working group or committee.
  • Adopting a framework to support telework as a viable City workforce strategy across all City departments, where possible.

“Thank you to the Controller for shining a light on the importance of engaging with our employees and empowering them to provide valuable services virtually,” said Personnel Dept. General Manager Wendy Macy. “The Personnel Department stands committed to supporting our workforce in these challenging times.”

Explore the report and story map at lacontroller.com/digitalservices or https://lacontroller.org/audits-and-reports/digitalservices/

Follow L.A. Controller Ron Galperin at @LAController on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.