Category Archives: Information.Technology

Signs protest Davenport school district’s outsourcing initiative

Source: Linda Cook, Quad-City Times, August 22, 2018
 
Last week, Davenport Schools Superintendent Art Tate floated the idea of outsourcing some services, if the district could save money and maintain or improve the quality of the service. Teaching jobs would not outsourced. Since then, signs saying “Protect Our Kids, No Outsourcing in our Schools” have appeared along West Locust Street and West Central Park Avenue opposing the concept. Union officials were aware of the signs, but said they have not taken an official stance on the issue. Earlene Anderson, the union representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME,) for East Central Iowa, which represents the district’s para-educators, security, custodial and food service-workers, among others, said “everything is still evolving.” …

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Orange Signs Popping Up Around Davenport
Source: Angie Sharp, WQAD, May 1, 2013

It’s a community campaign that is growing every day. Bright orange signs are popping up in front yards across the Davenport Community School District, reading “Protect Our Kids. No Outsourcing In Our Schools.” The signs are part of an effort to stop the District from outsourcing jobs such as custodians, nurses, security staff, maintenance crews, and more. The District’s Resource Allocation Committee, which looks at ways the District can reduce spending and save money, has recommended the possibility of conducting outsourcing studies…

Davenport school board hones in on $3.2 million in budget cuts
Source: Tara Becker, Quad-City Times, March 26, 2013

…To address the uncertainty in state funding, the district’s Resource Allocation Committee recommended that the district cut $3.25 million per year for the next five years to make sure the budget stays in the black. The committee, which is made up of 25 representatives of the school district and the community, recommended several budget reductions and other areas of study. One such recommendation by the committee is to outsource nursing, janitorial and other positions. The board has not yet to direct Tate to do a study on the issue….

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JANET NAPOLITANO REJECTS CALLS TO SEVER TIES WITH DEFENSE CONTRACTOR

Source: Ethan Coston, The Triton, August 22, 2018
 
UC President Janet Napolitano has announced that the UC system will not sever ties with General Dynamics Information Technology—a defense contractor that works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—despite requests from labor unions and the UC Student Association (UCSA). On June 8, UC-AFT—the labor union that represents UC faculty and librarians—sent a letter to Napolitano calling on her to end the UC system’s contracts with defense contractor General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), which administers the UC system’s Analytical Writing Placement Exam to prospective UC students. … UCSA and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, the largest labor union in the UC system, released letters supporting UC-AFT’s message. …

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Labor leaders demand UC end contracts with ICE-collaborating businesses
Source: Mani Sandhu, Daily Californian, August 13, 2018

 
UC labor leaders are demanding that the UC system end contracts with businesses that work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, in response to President Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant families at the border.  The UC paid more than $200 million during 2011-15 through contracts with 25 businesses — including AT&T, Maxim Healthcare Services, Time Warner Cable and General Dynamics Information Technology, or GDIT — that also provide services for ICE, according to a document from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, or AFSCME Local 3299, the UC’s largest employee union.  “To add insult to injury, not only are they outsourcing our jobs, they’re outsourcing our jobs to the people who are behind Trump’s zero tolerance policy,” said AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson John de los Angeles. “We want UC to stand up for the communities that they’re exploiting.”

Students, unions demand UC divest from ICE-related companies
Source: Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, August 10, 2018
 
In reaction to President Trump’s policy of separating families at the border, students and labor leaders at the University of California are urging UC President Janet Napolitano to sever contracts with dozens of companies doing business with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.  UC labor leaders say they’ve found 25 companies — from uniform suppliers to weapons manufacturers — that do hundreds of millions of dollars of business with the university, and with ICE.  “We want UC to remove resources that are critical to ICE’s enforcement of zero tolerance and take a stand for” immigrants and people of color, said John de los Angeles, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Local 3299, which represents thousands of workers across UC campuses and medical centers. …

Millions Flow to Pentagon’s Banned Contractors Via a Back Door

Source: Sam Skolnik, Bloomberg Government, August 6, 2018
 
Some of the world’s largest companies have benefited from a little-known law that lets the Defense Department override decisions barring contractors accused or convicted of bribery, fraud, theft, and other crimes from doing business with the government.  International Business Machines Corp., Boeing Co., BP Plc, and several other contractors have received special dispensation to fulfill multimillion-dollar government contracts through “compelling reason determinations.” That process allows the Defense Department in rare cases to determine that the need to fulfill certain contracts justifies doing business with companies that have been suspended from government work.  The 22 determinations were released by the General Services Administration at the request of Bloomberg Government, allowing for the first collective examination of the cases and the system that allowed them. …

… The determinations, also referred to as waivers or overrides, included contracts to provide food services for Defense Department personnel at an Army base in Afghanistan, “vital” web-hosting services for an agency that serves the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community, and aviation fuel sold to the Defense Logistics Agency. In some instances, contracting officials said the overrides were matters of life or death. Companies receiving waivers included some accused or convicted of major fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, ethical bidding violations, and in the case of fuel-seller BP, an overall “lack of business integrity.” In the most recent waiver case—issued just several weeks ago—an affiliate of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates was suspended for allegedly bribing an Army contracting official and another man to deliver a $420 million contract involving expansion of a U.S. base south of Seoul. …

Kansas agency chief on no-bid contracts: ‘It’s all public record’

Source: Jonathan Shorman, Wichita Eagle, May 11, 2018
 
Kansas lawmakers voiced frustration this week that they were unaware the state’s revenue agency had entered into no-bid contracts worth millions, including one to outsource dozens of employees. But the agency’s chief said Friday they had been properly informed. “We’ve reported to the legislative committees on every phase of this where we were supposed to, that we followed the law the way we were supposed to follow it, that it’s all public record what’s been done,” said Revenue Secretary Sam Williams. … Sarah LaFrenz, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said there is a difference between posting a public notice online and talking openly about what is going to happen under the contract. “That’s the transparency when people are going to lose their jobs — that’s what people are looking for,” LaFrenz said. … LaFrenz said to her knowledge employees last fall likely understood that the agency would be contracting but did not know that they would lose their jobs. …

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Outsourcing at Kansas Department of Revenue could mean dozens of layoffs
Source: Associated Press, May 9, 2018
 
The Kansas Department of Revenue will lay off nearly 60 employees as it moves its information technology service to CGI Technologies, which was given no-bid contracts worth nearly $60 million despite criticism of its operations in the rollout of the federal health care website in 2013. The 56 workers losing their jobs will be allowed to apply for CGI jobs in Topeka or could be matched with other jobs in the revenue department or other areas of state government, department spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said Wednesday. …

City-owned Internet services offer cheaper and more transparent pricing

Source: Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, January 15, 2018

Municipal broadband networks generally offer cheaper entry-level prices than private Internet providers, and the city-run networks also make it easier for customers to find out the real price of service, a new study from Harvard University researchers found. Researchers collected advertised prices for entry-level broadband plans—those meeting the federal standard of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds—offered by 40 community-owned ISPs and compared them to advertised prices from private competitors. The report by researchers at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard doesn’t provide a complete picture of municipal vs. private pricing. But that’s largely because data about private ISPs’ prices is often more difficult to get than information about municipal network pricing, the report says. In cases where the researchers were able to compare municipal prices to private ISP prices, the city-run networks almost always offered lower prices. This may help explain why the broadband industry has repeatedly fought against the expansion of municipal broadband networks. This fight includes pushing legislators to draft anti-municipal broadband state laws, lobbying against local ballot initiatives, and filing lawsuits against cities that build their own networks. …

Federal Fraud Recoveries Decline in Fiscal Year 2017

Source: Project on Government Oversight, January 2, 2018

… The DOJ announced it had recouped $3.7 billion through settlements and judgments in False Claims Act cases in fiscal year 2017. This amount is nearly 23 percent lower than the previous fiscal year, but roughly in line with FY 2015’s total. This seems to be a trend: a historical analysis of DOJ’s fraud recoveries since 1986 (the year Congress substantially strengthened the False Claims Act) shows that, in recent years, a substantial drop-off occurs in non-election years. … As in past years, the largest share of the recoveries—about two-thirds—involved health care fraud. But a substantial sum also came from some of Uncle Sam’s largest contractors:

  • AECOM and Bechtel: $125 million to settle False Claims Act allegations that the contractors charged the government for deficient materials and services at the Hanford Nuclear Site. Separately, AECOM paid over $5.2 million to settle another fraud investigation involving its work at Hanford.
  • Agility: $95 million to settle a 12-year-old case accusing the company of overcharging the government for food supplied to U.S. troops in the Middle East.
  • Atlantic Diving Supply: $16 million for allegedly inducing the government to award small business contracts to companies misrepresenting their eligibility as socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses.
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries: $9.2 million to resolve claims of overbilling the government for work at its Mississippi shipyards.
  • Pacific Architects and Engineers: $5 million to settle allegations that it failed to properly screen and oversee personnel working on a contract to train Afghan security forces.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation: $14.9 million for allegedly causing the government to pay inflated labor costs on contracts.
  • Defense contractors accounted for $220 million in fraud settlements and judgments.

Better data, oversight needed to boost diversity in tech

Source: Bloomberg Government, Chris Cornillie, December 7, 2017

Federal technology contractors may soon need to meet higher standards for diversity or risk losing government business, according to new recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In a report released Nov. 30, the government’s top watchdog calls on two government offices, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), to overhaul their efforts to, “combat discrimination and support equal employment opportunity for U.S. workers” in the technology industry. … According to the government’s top watchdog, deficiencies in EEOC and OFCCP data reporting processes challenged their ability to hold companies accountable for meeting employment targets for traditionally underrepresented groups. However, most of GAO’s criticism was aimed at OFCCP, which is responsible for enforcing nondiscrimination among federal contractors. The study found that OFCCP regulations allow contractors to report employment of racial and ethnic minorities using a single, combined metric, rather than reporting figures for each group individually. … Given the national debate on diversity in the technology industry — and in the workplace in general — GAO’s findings could have a significant impact on federal contracting. GAO called on OFCCP’s director to take steps toward requiring contractors to disaggregate employment data by racial and ethnic group. … Perhaps most significantly, GAO’s report may catalyze support for expanding diversity in federal contracting, especially in the IT space. … Perhaps most significantly, GAO’s report may catalyze support for expanding diversity in federal contracting, especially in the IT space. …

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Pennsylvania lurches from one software boondoggle to another

Source: Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, December 1, 2017

The phones stopped working again at Pennsylvania’s unemployment-compensation offices Tuesday. “Due to vendor-related technical issues,” the state Department of Labor and Industry said. The same department has had to rely on what state auditors in May called “antiquated” software, written in the COBOL language used by punch-card programmers in the 1970s, since spending more than $160 million on a replacement system that failed. Elsewhere in Harrisburg, the Department of Human Services paid benefits to a couple of thousand dead people after computer systems failed to flag them as ineligible, auditors found last year. At the Department of Environmental Protection, the last full audit found water-quality reviews used “decades-old” data updated by hand. And after contractors were paid $800 million over the years, more than four times its projected cost since the 1990s, the Pennsylvania Statewide Radio Network still doesn’t work as designed.

… So Mr. Grove is sponsoring House Bill 1704, which would combine most state departmental IT offices and their short- and long-term planning, procurement, and cyber-security protection into a single Office of Technology. It would be part of the governor’s Office of Administration, under a director with the power to kill or suspend projects that run over budget or below standards. Pennsylvania IT contracts need “better controls” and “stronger clawback mechanisms” (performance bonds), so taxpayers can get their money back when the systems they buy don’t work, elected Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat like Gov. Tom Wolf, said at a Nov. 14 hearing on the bill. … But Mr. Wolf’s appointees worry that the new office could “duplicate” and “conflict with” current procurement rules, Curt Topper, Mr. Wolf’s Department of General Services chief, told Mr. Grove at the hearing before Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s Government Affairs Committee. …

Ige appoints new director for troubled state tax department

Source: Kevin Dayton, Honolulu Star Advertiser, December 6, 2017
 
Gov. David Ige today named Linda Chu Takayama as the new director of the state Department of Taxation in an effort to quickly replace outgoing director Maria Zielinski in what has emerged as a pivotal position in Ige’s administration.  Takayama is a lawyer who now serves as Ige’s director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, and previously served as state insurance commissioner. Zielinski abruptly resigned effective Tuesday in the wake of a report that revealed state tax officials instructed a supposedly independent consultant on which subjects it should address in its monitoring reports on the progress of a new $60 million tax computer system. … Ige is under intense pressure to efficiently execute the $60 million contract to replace the tax department’s old computer system. State government has had an embarrassing history of botched computer projects dating back to previous administrations, and the computer system for collecting state taxes is a critical piece of state infrastructure.  The project has already stirred controversy. Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, wrote to Gov. David Ige on Oct. 31 to object to the decision to take control of the project away from Zielinski and TSM Program Manager Robert Su earlier this year. …

How the Prison Phone Industry Further Isolates Prisoners

Source: Kalena Thomhave, American Prospect, October 12, 2017
 
When inmates are able to speak to friends and family while incarcerated, it not only improves their lives, but also, studies have shown, reduces recidivism after they leave prison. But to fill in budget holes or to make a profit, many state and local governments work with companies that put a high price tag on this basic need for the incarcerated.  A handful of companies monopolize the prison phone industry, and their control of the market allows them to charge exorbitant rates for inmate calls to their homes. States that contract with these providers tend to choose the contractor that provides not the lowest price, but the highest commission rate for the state. As a result, prisoners and their families may pay up to $1 per minute on a call. …

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Face-to-Face Family Visits Return to Some Jails
Source: Mindy Fetterman, The Pew Charitable Trusts, February 15, 2017

… Jailhouse visits like this one between family members and inmates are starting to make a comeback, replacing a decadeslong trend of requiring families to use Skype-like video technology in which families dial in from a computer at home, a public library or inside the jail itself to talk to a loved one who is incarcerated. The reason: Video technology companies came under criticism for charging high fees and for providing poor quality video connections. And evidence is growing that in-person visits help cut the likelihood that inmates will return to jail once they get out. Counties in Texas and Mississippi as well as the District of Columbia are reinstating face-to-face visits. A few states, like New Jersey, are considering legislation to allow in-person visits again.

… Although in-person visits remain the most common form of interaction between inmates and family members, the trend toward video visitation has been growing since the late 1990s. More than 500 jails and state prisons in 43 states have some sort of video visitation system, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. About 12 percent of jails have it, according to a study by PPI, which advocates for prisoners and their families. … And as video visitation has increased, face-to-face visitation has declined. The PPI found in a 2015 study that 74 percent of jails dropped in-person visits when they started video visits. Often the private companies that provide video visitation services require governments to drop in-person visits. … More than one in three families go into debt to cover the costs of staying in touch with people who are incarcerated, including paying for video calls, telephone calls and travel expenses for trips to jails and especially prisons, which can be hundreds of miles away, according to a survey of families by the Ella Baker Center, a nonprofit that advocates against mass incarceration. … Those fees have come under criticism for being a “kickback” for governments, too. … The controversy over the cost of video visitation calls is part of a larger debate over the high cost of regular telephone calls for inmates. …

FCC made a case for limiting cost of prison phone calls. Not anymore.
Source: Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, February 5, 2017

Federal regulators no longer are pressing to cut the costs of most prison phone calls, backing away from a years-long effort to limit charges imposed by a handful of private companies on inmates and their families. The shift by the Federal Communications Commission comes as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Monday considers whether commissioners went too far when they capped prices for inmate calls that had reached more than a $1 per minute. To make phone calls from most federal and state prisons, inmates generally must set up accounts with a private company to hold money deposited by family members. The companies typically have a contract with the prisons, which receive a portion of the call revenue. Federal regulators had pushed since 2013 to lower the costs, saying the prices made it too hard for relatives to stay in touch. But a week after President Trump tapped a new leader for the FCC, the commission’s attorneys changed course and told the court that the FCC no longer would defend one of its own key provisions that limited fees for prisoners’ intrastate calls. … But supporters of the FCC’s limits say the phone contracts are being awarded on the basis of companies’ willingness to pay the highest commissions to prison systems — not on the basis of lowest rates or best service. In 2013, phone-service companies paid at least $460 million in commissions to correctional facilities, according to a brief filed by a coalition of advocates for inmates and their families. A number of state prison systems, including in New York’s, Mississippi’s and New Jersey’s, have taken steps to reduce rates and in some cases to limit commissions. …

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