Opinion: Out of Debtors’ Prison, With Law as the Key

Source: Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, March 27, 2015

…. You don’t go to jail for walking your dog without a leash, making an illegal left turn or burning leaves without a permit, but in many states you will go to jail if you can’t pay the resulting fees and fines. We have a two-tier system: The rich pay fines. The poor go to jail….The injustices are compounded when governments contract with private companies to manage probation, as they do in 13 states, according to Nusrat Choudhury, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. These companies offer their services free to a city — and then charge offenders fees sometimes as large as or larger than their debt, with jail the penalty for nonpayment. In many cases, debt collection is the only service they perform. Human Rights Watch has said that most states that use private probation ”do not currently subject probation companies to any meaningful oversight or regulation at all.”…

Why Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) don’t work: The many advantages of the public alternative

Source: David Hall, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), February 2015

From the summary:
The new report Why Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) don’t work: The many advantages of the public alternative contains a combination of 30 years of research by David Hall, former Director of Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) University of Greenwich, UK.

This report assesses the PPP experience in both industrialised and developing countries.

The many case studies analysed, from United Kingdom to Chile, shows that PPPs have failed to live up to their promise. In most cases, they are an expensive and inefficient way of financing infrastructure and services, since they conceal public borrowing, while providing long-term state guarantees for profits to private companies.

The author proposes a public alternative to this system, in which national and local governments can continue to develop infrastructure by using public finance for investment, and public sector organisations to deliver the service.

Federal review of foster care spending could cost state $12 million /Funds to pay back federal government in budget bill

Source: Jonathan Shorman, Topeka Capital-Journal, March 25, 2015

…At the time the state privatized, the Kansas Department for Children and Families presented the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) a payment and claiming structure for use under the privatized system. The federal agency approved the plan, according to DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed. Four years ago, ACF began auditing Nebraska’s child welfare system. The state attempted to privatize its system in 2009, but the companies that contracted with the state eventually lost their contracts. ACF ordered the state to pay back millions in federal funds after finding it improperly spent some of the funds. ACF then conducted a similar review of Kansas, Freed said. In essence, the federal agency found the state had been improperly classifying all payments to the state’s foster care contractors as maintenance spending — which should be limited to covering the cost of shelter, food and clothing for children….

Kansas child support, cost to collect it down
Source: Associated Press, December 14, 2014

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says privatization of the state’s child support collection system has been a good move because it made collecting the money more cost-effective. But while the governor says Kansas collected $5.89 for every $1 spent collecting it in fiscal year 2014, other data indicate the state collected the lowest percentage of child support in the past 14 years.

With Kansas DCF privatization, some child support measures fall
Source: Chris Neal, Capital-Journal, November 9, 2014

…. Last year a wave of privatization swept across the state’s child support system. Kansas’ child support services, previously a function of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, were handed over to a handful of companies in contracts worth millions. More than a hundred state employee positions were eliminated as officials promised more aggressive collection and greater efficiency. But data obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal through an open records request shows Kansas now does a worse job collecting current child support than before privatization — and the percentage of current support collected stands at a 14-year low.

Privatization initiative offers window on Kansas government / Child support enforcement story blends politics, policy and procurement
Source: Dave Ranney, Mike Shields, KHI News Service, May 27, 2014

This account of how child support enforcement came to be fully privatized in Kansas does not allege scandal or malfeasance; nor does it confirm none occurred. But it provides details of the sort rarely reported about the operations of Kansas government and the links among campaigns, politics, lobbyists and policy. For some, it may raise questions about the fairness and openness of the process and what it takes to influence it.

Connected contractors prep to take over child support – Companies all had previous work with the state and/or with each other
Source: Andy Marso, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 17, 2013

Department for Children and Families employees who work in child support are facing layoffs in the coming weeks and the decision of whether to try and catch on with one of the four vendors the state has chosen to privatize their jobs. The department doled out full-service child support contracts for all of the state’s 31 judicial districts in June. A court trustee’s office got one district, and the other 30 were split among three private companies. All three of those companies have worked either for the state or for each other in the past year. The Senate’s Democratic leader, spurred by a state worker’s complaint that the child support system was “set up to fail” in the run up to privatization, has termed at least one of the contracts an “insider’s deal.”…

Administration defends child support privatization / DCF spokeswoman denies claim division was ‘set up to fail,’ says privatization meant to increase collections
Source: Andy Marso, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 20, 2013

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families struck back at critics of the agency’s drive to privatize child support services Tuesday, saying the bidding process was completely on the up-and-up and state workers weren’t “set up to fail” to pave the way for privatization. Theresa Freed said the head of the child support services division has tried to contact Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, about the email he received from a state employee saying the child support division was sabotaged, but Hensley hasn’t returned a call as promised….

…Freed said Gov. Sam Brownback had no role in selecting the vendors for child support services in the state’s 31 judicial districts and that each district went to the lowest bidder, which is confirmed by documents received from the Department of Administration. In 10 of the districts only one company, YoungWilliams, bid. YoungWilliams CEO Robert Wells and his wife donated to Brownback’s campaign in 2010….

Administration touts Singapore delegation’s reaction to privatization / Department for Children and Families says visiting officials impressed with effort to privatize foster care
Source: Andy Marso, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 22, 2013

The Kansas Department for Children and Families says officials visiting from Singapore this week were impressed with the agency’s efforts to privatize child welfare services, including foster care and adoption. An agency news release states that eight representatives of Singapore’s Ministry of Social and Family Development met Wednesday with Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore and other staff members. They reportedly discussed recruitment of foster and adoptive families, resources for children who age out of the system, and family preservation services….

Child Support Workers Laid Off as Kansas Moves to Privatization
Source: Cindee Talley, HPPR, July 10, 2013

More than 200 workers in the Child Support Services Division of the Kansas Department for Children and Families will be laid off by September 20, 2013, as the state moves to privatization of child support enforcement. The Kansas Health Institute reported most of the affected workers are expected to accept positions with the contractor for their area. Theresa Freed, spokesperson for the DCF says she is confident that everyone who wants a job will have one.

Kansas to privatize child support collections
Source: Associated Press, March 1, 2013

…The Kansas Department for Children and Families said Friday it has begun accepting proposals to privatize the system. The agency says contractors may bid to collect support payments in one, several or all of the state’s 31 judicial districts. Department Secretary Phyllis Gilmore says contracts are scheduled to be awarded in June and will go into effect in September. Gilmore says her department’s Child Support Services division collects more than $200 million each year from noncustodial parents. She says the agency estimates that privatizing the system could increase collections by about $52 million over the first three years….

Kansas to privatize child-support collections / Outsourcing work may eliminate 250 state employee jobs
Source: Tim Carpenter, Capital-Journal, March 1, 2013

Security Clearances: Additional Mechanisms May Aid Federal Tax-Debt Detection

Source: Government Accountability Office, GAO-15-467T, March 18, 2015

Form the summary:
In its prior work, GAO found that tens of thousands of federal employees and contractors who were adjudicated as eligible for national security clearances had unpaid federal tax debts. Specifically:
– In July 2014, GAO reported that about 83,000 Department of Defense (DOD) employees and contractors who were determined eligible for a security clearance or related interim clearance owed approximately $730 million in unpaid taxes as of June 2012.
– In September 2013, GAO reported that about 8,400 non-DOD civilian executive-branch employees and contractors with clearances owed about $85 million in unpaid federal taxes as of June 2012….

…According to ODNI, several million civilian and military federal employees and contractors were eligible to hold a security clearance as of October 2013. The number of personnel determined eligible for clearance underscores the importance of conducting thorough assessments of security-clearance applicants as these clearances may allow individuals to gain access to classified information that, through unauthorized disclosure, in some cases might cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. Federal laws do not prohibit an individual with unpaid federal taxes from holding a security clearance, but tax debt poses a potential vulnerability that must be considered in making a broader determination about whether an applicant should be granted a security clearance.

This testimony focuses on: (1) the extent to which clearance holders had unpaid federal tax debts, and (2) actions to improve the detection of federal tax debt in the security-clearance process. This testimony is based on and summarizes key findings and a recommendation from two prior reports GAO issued in September 2013 and July 2014 (GAO-13-733 and GAO-14-686R)….

As CTU and Chuy Garcia Endorse $15/hr Contract Demand, Fight for 15 Goes Beyond Fast Food

Source: David Moberg, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, March 25, 2015

The Fight for 15 and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have joined together to demand that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees should earn at least $15 an hour, including contract workers such as the janitors provided by Aramark in a controversial privatization of school sanitation that has provoked protests by public school principals….The CTU announced it would include a demand for all CPS employees to receive a $15 per hour minimum wage in their contract proposal to the Chicago Board of Education. The proposed language reads: “The CTU will require the BOARD to report which employees do not earn at least a $15/hour minimum wage and to then require that all CTU members must earn at least $15/hr. and that all CPS subcontractors must earn at least $15/hr. and/or that all CPS employees must earn at least $15/hr.”…

Closure Of Private Prison Forces Texas County To Plug Financial Gap

Source: John Burnett, NPR, March 26, 2015

The Willacy County Correctional Center is empty now. The tall security fences and dome-like housing units set out on the coastal prairie have no one inside them. One morning late last month, the prisoners rioted. They set fires and tore the place up. Guards put down the uprising in about five hours. But the destruction was so severe that the sprawling detention compound has been shut down. All 2,800 inmates were transferred…. “It’s a business,” he says. “And we’re gonna take all the advantage we can to bring in more business if possible.” That means more inmates. … Like other poor communities in America, Raymondville looked to for-profit prisons as a way to generate revenue and create jobs. Willacy built three of them. The Correctional Center was the largest, with a workforce of nearly 400. They’re now looking for work. The structure of the deals typically favor the private prison companies. Willacy created a public facilities corporation, sold bonds, built the prison and hired an operator — Management & Training Corporation (MTC)….

Monmouth County considering privatizing nursing homes

Source: MaryAnn Spoto, NJ.com, March 24, 2015

After years of grappling with millions of dollars in losses at two-county owned nursing homes, Monmouth County freeholders are considering privatizing the facilities. At a meeting scheduled for tonight at one of the county complexes in Freehold Township, the board is expected to vote on a measure that would give members the authority to explore selling one or both of the hospitals….Monmouth County officials have been struggling with ways to improve financial conditions at the Thompson Care Center, a facility with 135 long-term-care beds in Freehold Township, and the John L. Montgomery Care Center, a hospital with 205 long-term-care beds in Wall Township, since 2007….

Ohio State U. Launching Another Privatization

Source: Caitlin Devitt, Bond Buyer, March 24, 2015

The Ohio State University expects to drum up considerable cash by finding a private partner to take over its large campus energy system, as it seeks to offset waning traditional revenue sources. The proposal — which would be the latest first-of-its-kind financing for OSU — calls for the university to lease its energy system for 50 years to a concessionaire in exchange for what officials hope will be a “substantial” upfront payment. The private team would take on the cost of operating and upgrading the system, as well as procuring energy and achieving energy saving goals…. The 50-year concession and lease of the university’s entire utility system would include electric, steam, gas, heating, cooling and production and distribution assets serving the main Columbus campus. The private partner would also supply the campus with energy and operate and maintain the university’s electricity and natural gas supply contracts. Papadakis said the university wants to transfer all risk of operating the utility system and the cost of the energy-efficiency upgrades to the private company. The RFQ also proposes a so-called affinity relationship between the school and the private team, which could range from research collaboration to “integrated co-branded energy marketing opportunities.”…

Fire department to take over ambulances April 1

Source: Mandy Miles, Key West Citizen, March 26, 2015

With all staff, supplies and sirens in place, the Key West Fire Department is ready to start saving lives. The department will assume control of the city’s ambulance services at 7 a.m. Wednesday, April 1, when calls to 911 dispatchers will be routed to the fire department instead of CARE Ambulance Service, the private company previously contracted for the job.

Gracedale losses to total $39.5 million, Northampton County Council told

Source: Tom Shortell, Morning Call, March 19, 2015

Northampton County Executive John Brown projected a $39.5 million operating loss at Gracedale over the next four years, prompting County Council members to announce they will consider creating a nonprofit group to financially support the county-owned nursing home. … Since bringing in Premier Healthcare Resources in 2011, the county has significantly reduced its losses at Gracedale by more carefully managing overtime costs, improving its census, bringing in a new pharmacy to handle medication and making dozens of minor changes. None of those changes, however, will offset the labor costs, Brown and Frantz said….Administration officials painted the grim financial picture with only a year left on a nonbinding voter referendum to keep Gracedale under county control. In 2011, the electorate voted by a 3-1 margin not to sell the struggling nursing home. Brown declined to comment on the possibility of selling Gracedale, saying there was still a year left on the referendum…..
Can Northampton County taxpayers afford to keep Gracedale?
Source: Matt Assad, Morning Call, March 1, 2015

With most beds full and new policies in place, Northampton County’s nursing home, Gracedale, is running more efficiently than ever, yet even some of its biggest fans worry it’s a ticking financial time bomb. By 2018, the county-run home is projected to cost taxpayers more than $12 million a year to run, and that has administrators considering drastic, and in some cases controversial, measures to reverse the trend. Among the options they could roll out in the coming months are: creating a nonprofit foundation to seek donations from people who want the facility to remain in county hands; increasing the number of high-subsidy patients; and phasing out Gracedale’s generous pension package by not offering it to new employees. …. Those dire projections come as the moratorium on the county privatizing Gracedale is set to expire next year. When former Northampton County Executive John Stoffa proposed selling the home to a private company to end the annual subsidy by taxpayers, people in 2011 overwhelmingly voted to keep the home in county hands for at least five years. ….