How Maine quietly handed off financial oversight of a $23 million program for infants

Source: Erin Rhoda, Bangor Daily News, August 11, 2016

The LePage administration has made a point of putting more contracts out to bid. In an April email, Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Samantha Edwards said DHHS has sought to increase competition by issuing 100 to 125 requests for proposals this year compared with an average of 30 to 35 per year when the administration took office. … That’s one reason people in child advocacy and protection fields started asking questions in late winter when they learned a nonprofit was taking over administrative and financial duties of a statewide home visiting program called Maine Families without a competitive bidding process. The program operates on more than $9 million per year in federal and state funds and aims to help parents when it matters most for their infant’s long-term development. Dozens of interviews and documents show what led to a no-bid contract funded entirely with public dollars: a closed decision-making process, the state’s questionable justification to avoid competitive bidding, and limited communication about the transfer of a multimillion-dollar state program to the nonprofit sector. The circumstances raise questions about transparency and accountability. … The change in responsibility wasn’t widely communicated. The trust’s own director, Jan Clarkin, said she did not precisely know how the state awarded her organization the contract, which provided $3.46 million for administration, training, data collection and clinical consultation, and $19.42 million as funds to be passed through to the local home visiting agencies, over 2½ years starting April 1. … At $9.15 million per year, the award represented a 558 percent increase in the trust’s annual revenue, which was $1.39 million in 2013, the year of its most recently available tax filing. …