Buying 2 cents for $3 million: Silly or sound?

Michelle Cole from the Oregonian wrote Monday about the $3 million the Department of Human Services is shelling out to buy advice from a California consultant. The story is a little cynical on the expenditure:

The Oregon Department of Human Services is spending $3.2 million to hire a California consultant to help the state’s largest bureaucracy figure out how to do its job.

It represents a small fraction of the $12 billion two-year budget. But the expenditure has raised a few eyebrows among advocates for the agency’s clients — a large proportion of whom are poor, elderly or children.

Of course, the knee jerk reaction is to come down on DHS for burning through $3 million that could be going to services for the state’s needy and disadvantaged. But if we expect DHS to be running more effectively and efficiently, can we really begrudge them the tools they need to get the job done?

Bruce Goldberg, director of DHS, promises big returns on the expenditure:

Bruce Goldberg, the department’s director, said he’s certain that the consultants will help the department save at least $3.2 million by helping to identify efficiencies.

He’s labeled the process the “DHS Transformation Initiative.”

“What we get out of it is going to make us much better,” Goldberg said. “And the return on that investment is going to be, I think, dramatic. And it doesn’t happen unless you make that investment.”

Is this a smart move that makes business sense and will yield cost savings in state government, or another example of government spending gone amuck?