Category Archives: Oversight/Contract.Management

Puerto Rico bondholders balk at deal to divide sales taxes

Source: Bond Buyer, June 12, 2018 (Subscription required)
 
Major Puerto Rico bondholders are balking at a tentative agreement that would steer to owners of sales-tax-backed debt a large chunk of the revenue they’ve been pledged, threatening to prolong a fight over one of the biggest issues in the island’s record-setting bankruptcy.  The so-called ad hoc group of general-obligation bondholders told a U.S. court it has objections to the potential deal that court-appointed agents for the commonwealth and the entity that sold Puerto Rico’s sales-tax debt, called Cofinas, released last week. The deal triggered a rally in the price of the Cofina bonds, which would be repaid first and receive more than half of the sales-tax receipts that were dedicated to repaying the securities. …

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Judge orders information for possible independent Puerto Rico bond investigation
Source: Robert Slavin, Bond Buyer, June 7, 2018 (Subscription required)
 
Title III bankruptcy Magistrate Judge Judith Dein ordered the Puerto Rico oversight board and government to provide more information for a possible independent investigation into the territory’s debt.  The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, led by attorney Luc Despins, asked in mid-May to be allowed to conduct its own investigation, which would start no later than Aug. 15. The committee said an existing investigation, being conducted by Kobre & Kim under a Sept. 1, 2017, contract, is undermined by the potential bias of three board members who have present or past connections to Puerto Rico’s municipal finance industry. It fails to look into “identifying bad actors or potential causes of action” against existing debt, the committee argued. …

Democrats call for 9/11-style commission to investigate Trump Puerto Rico response
Source: Frank Dale, ThinkProgress, June 6, 2018
 
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling for an independent commission to investigate the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria and the storm’s aftermath in Puerto Rico.  During a news conference on Wednesday, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) requested an investigation “similar to what we had in 9/11 to examine the death toll, the federal response and how federal agencies such as FEMA may have responded sluggishly based on artificially low numbers.” Velazquez vowed to introduce legislation that would lead to the creation of an independent commission — though passing it in the current Republican-controlled Congress will be a challenge. … 

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From Pittsburgh to Flint, the Dire Consequences of Giving Private Companies Responsibility for Ailing Public Water Systems

Source: Sharon Lerner and Leana Hosea, The Intercept, May 20, 2018
 
The lead crises in Flint and Pittsburgh have many unfortunate parallels. Residents of both cities unknowingly drank water with high levels of the potent neurotoxin, which has long-term health consequences. The rise in lead levels was preceded in both cases by a miscalculation related to chemicals used to control corrosion in water pipes. And in both places, officials have faced criticism for their inaction and failure to alert the public. The two lead crises have another important thing in common: a private water company named Veolia. The world’s largest supplier of water services, Veolia had contracts with both Flint and Pittsburgh around the time that lead levels rose in their drinking water. And in both places, Veolia wound up in legal disputes over its role in the crises. …

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Pittsburgh’s Water System Is Why We Shouldn’t Run America Like a Business
Source: Jordana Rosenfeld, The Nation, November 30, 2017

Pittsburgh, in an attempt to deal with entrenched infrastructure problems, turned to the private sector in 2012 when it partnered with the French management firm Veolia North America, the same water-management company that would fail to disclose Flint’s lead-contamination problem in 2015. … The organization lauded Veolia for identifying $2.3 million in new PWSA revenue and $3 million more in operating savings, a move incentivized by their contract that stipulated the company could keep 40 percent of every dollar it saved the city. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a glowing account of PWSA’s partnership with Veolia, despite reports that it laid off 23 employees, many of whom were longtime employees with critical institutional knowledge. … But this August, a consulting group hired to assess the organization’s current state announced in a public meeting that PWSA was “a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure” with “an aging system in demonstrably worse condition than any water utility of its size in the country.” Not only that, water tests showed that since the partnership began, Pittsburgh’s water had been tainted with dangerously high levels of lead. …

Veolia’s US growth hopes run into trouble
Source: Luc Olinga, AFP, September 23, 2017

Veolia’s hopes of taking advantage of municipal privatizations and promised Trump administration public works projects to expand its US presence, are being strained by its role in water crises in Flint, Michigan and other cities. … A push by more US local governments to privatize water systems and promises by President Donald Trump of a $1 trillion public infrastructure investment are seen as opportunities to Veolia to expand. … But Veolia’s operations have not been without controversy, especially in Flint, where a lead contaminated water system became a notorious symbol of American social injustice. Veolia issued a study of the city’s water quality before the scandal erupted but did not flag any issues with lead, an issue it says it was told to exclude from the report since city and federal authorities already were looking into it. … Veolia continues to face numerous investigations and class-action lawsuits connected to the crisis. … Veolia also has run into controversy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which also suffered from elevated levels of lead in its water system. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has accused the French company of mismanaging the infrastructure system, including botching a shift in chemicals used in corrosion control. The Pittsburgh authority is in mediation with Veolia, according to two people familiar with the matter, but if that process fails it could result in another protracted court battle. …

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The Woman Standing in the Way of the Privatization of Thousands of Jobs in Tennessee Was Just Fired

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, May 7, 2018

A university chancellor who took a controversial stand to protect the jobs of thousands of public workers has now lost her own. University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport was abruptly fired from her post last week, in a move representatives for unionized campus workers are calling another step toward the privatization of thousands of facilities management jobs. The battle in Tennessee pits the state’s GOP governor, Bill Haslam, against its public workers, and UT-Knoxville is where the workers, backed by a student movement, have made their stand. The workers see Davenport’s firing as an effort to remove a key obstacle to privatization. …

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Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

Last year, Tennessee’s governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …

How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
 
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

University of Tennessee campuses will not outsource facilities jobs
Source: Rachel Ohm, USA TODAY, October 31, 2017

In a move celebrated by state workers on college campuses, University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center ended more than two years of speculation about whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract
Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans
Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Majority of lawmakers ask state to slow down on outsourcing
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 2, 2017

Seventy-five state lawmakers have signed a letter urging Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to postpone a plan to outsource jobs on college campuses and other state-owned property, delivering yet another blow to the controversial proposal. In the letter to Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin, signed by Republicans and Democrats from both chambers, the lawmakers ask to delay the outsourcing plan to allow “enough time to address concerns from the General Assembly.” … This is only the latest sign of deep reservations surrounding the project, which Haslam has championed against wide-ranging criticism for more than a year. Workers’ rights advocates, including a union representing campus workers, have blasted Haslam for prioritizing money over state workers and their families. College leaders have predicted the change would hurt services on campus. …

Tennessee’s billionaire governor works with his corporate buddies to privatize government jobs
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 27, 2017
 
Tennessee’s state government has inked a sweetheart deal with a company linked to the state’s billionaire governor to privatize thousands of facilities and management jobs at colleges, prisons, and other public buildings.  It’s being touted by some officials in other states as a model for the nation.  The $330 million, five-year contract covers custodial services, groundskeeping, and repair and maintenance work. Government officials say that each public facility can choose to only partially comply, or opt out, keeping their employees on the public payroll. “If they’re happy with business as usual, there’s nothing to do,” said Michelle Martin, a spokeswoman for the office that issued the contract. …

Jones Lang LaSalle Wins Bid for Haslam’s Campus Outsourcing
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2017

Real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle has been selected as the winning bidder for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize property management on the campuses of the Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/2nwO7Dh) the Chicago-based company that already manages a large number of general state government buildings beat out proposals by Aramark and Compass Group. It’s not yet clear how many campuses will choose to participate in the privatization plan. Final cost details won’t be known until the five-year contract is signed. …

Officials say state outsourcing is working, but plenty of skepticism remains
Source:Jake Lowary, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, March 8, 2017

Despite $26 million in savings reported by state administration officials, some lawmakers and state employees remain skeptical or outright opposed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to privatize many state agencies or operations within state government. Privatization of facility management, especially at public colleges and universities, has been a sort of sidecar initiative of Haslam for the past three years, in an effort to make state government more efficient and reduce costs. But many state workers still fear they will either lose their job or the areas that some have committed their lives to will suffer in quality. Larry Martin, state finance commissioner, was flanked by several officials from his department and told a Senate Oversight and Investigations Committee on Wednesday that the governor’s plan is working.

… Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he’s not been able to fully ascertain how the state arrives at the data it does regarding its overall savings, and requested that information from Martin and Hull. He questioned the data, specifically as it relates to the labor force, where the savings have not come. … Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, also questioned the notion of privatization, saying that it’s almost impossible for the state to restart or regain the management of those services once they’ve been outsourced to private companies. Representatives from the United Campus Workers offered some of the sharpest criticism to the privatization proposal from Haslam’s office, which has yet to be finalized and was indefinitely delayed last week. Melanie Barron, an organizer with UCW, said the request for proposal laid out by Haslam is “rife with loopholes” and despite promises from Haslam and other state leaders that agencies will be able to opt out of the RFP, little clarity about how to opt out has been provided. … The RFP for public facility management, which is separate from a different RFP to manage Fall Creek Falls State Park facilities, closed at the end of February. The state intends to issue a letter of intent to award at the end of March, Martin said. …

Opinion: Outsourcing state jobs hurts Tennessee
Source: Rep. John Ray Clemmons, The Tennessean, December 20, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam is gambling with our tax dollars and Tennesseans’ lives. His outsourcing scheme involves eliminating up to 17 percent of current state employees’ jobs at state college and universities, parks and elsewhere. Outsourcing public jobs will result in great profits for private corporations but less oversight, lower quality, and the elimination of all accountability for citizens. The tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga is an unfortunate illustration of this fact. Hamilton County Schools contracted with Durham School Services, a private company, to operate its school buses. After 36 injury crashes in Tennessee since 2014, Durham was still transporting children. … Haslam’s steadfast outsourcing efforts, in the face of statewide opposition, stand in stark contrast to his other endeavors. For instance, his administration spent 18 months crafting Insure Tennessee, a plan supported by a majority of Tennesseans. Though Haslam publicly professed a passion for the cause, he exerted such little effort behind the scenes that he willingly raised the white flag to a vocal minority within his own party after less than three days of a special session. … These lackadaisical efforts on healthcare and transportation are easily contrasted with Haslam’s exhaustive efforts on outsourcing, a solution in search of a problem. Our governor created a new office focused solely on outsourcing and focused the bulk of his energies on an effort to pay private corporations hundreds of millions of dollars to perform jobs that state employees already do well and reliably. …

Democrats Say Nashville Firm Reviewing Benefits Of Outsourcing Is Too Close To Haslam
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, December 12, 2016

Tennessee Democrats say they’re still not sold on the benefits of potentially outsourcing thousands of state jobs at college campuses, parks and prisons. They’re calling for yet another round of analysis on the proposal, even though two so far have found it could save the state more than $35 million a year. State officials were the first to come up with that estimate for what Tennessee could save from privatizing jobs currently done by public employees. But when questions were raised about their analysis’s validity, Nashville-based KraftCPAs stepped in. And after reviewing the state’s calculations for several weeks, the firm has decided Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration was more or less correct. That doesn’t satisfy state Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. He wants an out-of-state firm brought in to take a third look. He notes that Kraft has done work for Haslam’s campaign and that some Kraft employees have made donations to it — connections, Democrats say, call Kraft’s independence into question. …

Haslam administration: Review confirms outsourcing savings
Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2016

An outside firm hired by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration agrees that privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year. Haslam’s outsourcing advisers and consultants have touted the outsourcing plan as a way to save money while protecting the jobs of all currently employed campus maintenance workers who are deemed to be “qualified and productive.” The outside review was conducted by KraftCPAs PLLC.

Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money
Source: Randy Stamps, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 19, 2016

Saving taxpayer money is the main selling point behind every proposal to outsource a state service. But, when analyzed, outsourcing is often found to be more expensive than promised. For example, in January 2012 the state paid Jones Lang LaSalle $1 million to assess the condition and management of state properties. That November, the state expanded JLL’s contract to include procuring outside leases, a job previously handled by state employees. JLL would also receive a 4 percent commission on any leases it procured. By April 2013, funding for the contract had increased from $1 million to $7.6 million. In June 2013, Tennessee signed a $330 million, five-year contract with JLL to outsource the facilities management of all state buildings. In November of 2013, the state comptroller found JLL’s contract “created an organizational conflict of interest whereby Jones Lang LaSalle can profit from its own planning recommendations.” … In 2014, the state signed a $276 million contract with Trousdale County for a 2,400-bed private prison for Corrections Corporation of America. This contract also includes a 90 percent occupancy guarantee for CCA for per diem fees, which means if the private prison doesn’t remain above 90 percent occupied, taxpayers will pay per diem fees for empty beds. The contract also guarantees annual 2.5 percent operating per diem rate increases. In contrast, state employees do not receive guaranteed pay increases. … Tragically, in July, a man committed suicide by jumping off the Tennessee Tower in Downtown Nashville. According to a WSMV report, “Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.” In August, an accident at a Tennessee county fair sent three children plummeting 45 feet to the ground, severely injuring one. The Associated Press reported, “The state relies on private inspectors hired by operators and other states’ regulators to determine whether roller coasters, zip lines and Ferris wheels are safe.” State employees used to handle this work. In conclusion, as taxpayers, we must ask harder questions and demand more oversight on any contracts that outsource a state service. The notion of cost savings from outsourcing is simply no longer credible.

America’s Richest Politician Is Putting Thousands of Jobs at Risk
Source: Donald Cohen, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who won’t release his tax returns. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, has refused to release his since running and being elected in 2010. It wouldn’t matter so much if Haslam were your run-of-the-mill governor. But he’s the country’s richest politician, with a net worth of $2 billion. … It matters because Haslam has a plan that could plunge thousands of state workers into poverty. Since being elected, he’s slowly handed over management and operation of public buildings to a private company. All state-owned real estate is on the chopping block—from college campuses and prisons to state parks. The company, the Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, is the world’s second largest commercial real estate brokerage. While running for office in 2010, Haslam held a financial stake in the company. He might still be invested but we don’t know for sure—he’s since placed many of his investments in a blind trust. The governor clearly hasn’t read our new report, How privatization increases inequality. …
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Waste Management sues over ‘arbitrary’ bidding process in Carson, California

Source: Ellen Ryan, WasteDive, May 9, 2018

Claiming that its bid would have brought Carson 15 times more revenue than the eventual winner’s, Waste Management — a major player across the state — wants Los Angeles Superior Court to overturn the new contract and restart the bidding process. This is not the first time a waste collection company has turned to the legal system over a bidding loss. Late last year Republic Services sued Middletown, New Jersey, claiming the township violated state law in awarding a five-year hauling contract to Central Jersey Waste and Recycling. … Meanwhile, public complaints have grown as the City of Los Angeles revamped its waste hauling system in recent months, and citizens attempted a referendum to end it. Waste Management is one of the companies involved in the multi-zone, supposedly more efficient system that has broken down into complaints of lapsed service and higher fees. …

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. …

A Troubled Accreditor’s Long-Term Outlook

Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 13, 2018

A national accreditor at the center of the collapse of two for-profit college chains got another lease on life after a court ruling kicked back to the Department of Education a 2016 decision withdrawing federal recognition and, later, the Trump administration restored that recognition pending further review. Even with another shot at restoring federal recognition, though, the long-term outlook for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools remains murky. … But some higher education observers believe that even if the department ultimately restores the accreditor’s recognition, it won’t be around for the long haul. That skepticism is due to the number of colleges that have already made moves to depart ACICS and to the damage the accreditor’s brand has sustained as regulators have scrutinized its failures in oversight. …

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DeVos Restores Recognition of For-Profit Accreditor Terminated by Obama Administration
Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, April 4, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a signed order Tuesday that she was restoring the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the for-profit accreditor that had waged a fight for reinstatement since the Obama administration withdrew its recognition in 2016. DeVos took the action in response to a federal district court judge’s ruling last month that former secretary John King failed to consider key evidence before terminating the recognition of ACICS. The ruling kicked back to the department final consideration of the accreditor’s fate. But it left unclear whether the department would review the original 2016 petition or the appeal filed by ACICS in 2017. That latter scenario would involve a more strenuous process for the accreditor as a body no longer recognized by the federal government. …

Court Win For Students Over Predatory For-Profit Colleges
Source: David Halperin, Huffington Post, February 21, 2017

Minutes ago, United States District Judge Reggie Walton denied a motion filed by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the U.S. Department of Education from proceeding with the de-recognition of the organization. ACICS needs Department recognition in order for the colleges it accredits to be eligible for federal student grants and loans. Judge Walton said in open court that ACICS had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case, particularly because then-Secretary of Education John King determined in December that ACICS was in substantial noncompliance with the rules governing accreditor performance. … There were rumblings before the hearing that the new Trump-Betsy Devos Department of Education might back down and somehow try to reverse Secretary King’s decision, as lobbyists for predatory for-profit colleges have been openly and aggressively urging. It’s not at all clear how the Department could simply dump King’s decision; from the regulations it appears that ACICS would have to start all over again and re-apply. For today, at least, the Department of Justice, which represented the Secretary of Education in case, diligently and skillfully opposed ACICS’s motion. … ACICS has been the accreditor for some 240 institutions exclusively or primarily, and most of those are for-profit colleges. $4.76 billion in taxpayer dollars went from the Department of Education to ACICS schools in 2015.But ACICS has been the asleep-at-the-switch accreditor of some of the most notorious bad actors in the for-profit college sector, including Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, Kaplan, EDMC (the Art Institutes), Career Education Corporation (Sanford-Brown), Alta Colleges (Westwood), Globe, FastTrain, and Daymar. …

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Labor Dept. to Relax Obama Pay Bias Policy, Hand Reins to Businesses

Source: Ben Penn and Porter Wells, Bloomberg Law, April 19, 2018
 
The Trump administration plans to ease the way it reviews federal contractors for pay discrimination by letting businesses help shape those investigations, two sources with knowledge of the plans told Bloomberg Law. The Labor Department will rescind an Obama-era policy as soon as tomorrow, instructing investigators to analyze pay rates among groups of workers at a particular business based on job categories set by the companies. The DOL currently audits federal contractors for salary bias by determining for itself whether certain workers should be considered to be doing the same job. The change could have significant consequences for companies—and their workers—that do business with the federal government. It would allow businesses to shape the random Labor Department audits by determining which workers investigators should be comparing for possible pay bias. …

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Federal Contractors Face Broader OFCCP Pay Probes
Source: Kevin McGowan, BNA, Daily Labor Report, 147 DLR C-2, July 31, 2015
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Federal contractors must prepare for Labor Department compliance reviews in which all forms of employee compensation, not just base pay, will be subject to federal agency audits seeking evidence of sex- and race-based disparities, management lawyer Mickey Silberman said July 30. Speaking at the National Industry Liaison Group’s annual conference in New York, Silberman said the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has four new tools at its disposal to pursue the administration’s objective of closing the gender pay gap by collecting more data and conducting more comprehensive reviews of federal contractors’ compensation practices. ….

FEMA faulted for failed contracts to deliver hurricane aid

Source: Associated Press, April 10, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts for hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee. The investigation followed disclosures by The Associated Press in November that a newly created Florida company with an unproven record had won more than $30 million in FEMA contracts to provide 500,000 tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting for repairs after Hurricane Maria damaged tens of thousands of homes in Puerto Rico. That vendor, Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida, never delivered those urgently needed supplies. The report from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs described failures by the Trump administration that prevented timely delivery of tarps and sheeting to hurricane victims after the summer’s storms. It focused on the Bronze Star contract and another awarded to Global Computers and Networks LLC of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. …

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Lawmakers seek probes of award for Hurricane Maria tarps
Source: Tami Abdollah, Associated Press, December 1, 2017

Democrats in Congress are pushing for investigations into how the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts worth $30 million to a fledgling company for Hurricane Maria disaster supplies that it failed to deliver to Puerto Rico. The senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, wrote Thursday to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, seeking more information about how FEMA evaluated Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida. The Associated Press reported this week that FEMA awarded the small firm contracts for tarps and plastic sheeting that were never delivered. The agency ultimately terminated the contracts earlier this month without paying any money, but the episode caused a delay of four weeks. …

… Meanwhile, Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., wants the Homeland Security Department inspector general to investigate. He sought the review in an amendment to the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2017, which cleared the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday. Maloney’s amendment cleared the committee with unanimous bipartisan support, though it was unclear when the House will vote on the measure. The amendment specifically requests an inspector general audit of all contracts awarded for tarps and plastic sheeting for the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The review would include the contracting process used to evaluate bidders and award the contracts; the assessment of past performance and technical capacity to fulfill the contracts; and how FEMA ensures the contractors meet the terms. …

Audit finds state lacks documented oversight of new foster care model

Source: Allie Morris, San Antonio Express-News, April 1, 2018

A recent audit found flaws in the state’s oversight of a new foster care model that further privatizes the system and is set to roll out in Bexar County soon. In the new model, a contractor manages foster care providers within a certain region, instead of the state. The Legislature approved expansion of the model last session as a way to improve the embattled foster care system, which is facing a long-running class-action lawsuit by foster children who claim they faced abuse, constant movement and overmedication. The state audit found the Department of Family and Protective Services conducted site visits to ensure contractor ACH Child and Family Services was in compliance. But the state didn’t have documentation to show whether it verified that ACH monitored all 107 foster care providers in its seven-county area, which includes Fort Worth, or whether their oversight was effective. In one instance, state auditors reported that ACH hadn’t monitored one foster care provider for more than 18 months as children continued being placed there. …

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New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System
Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

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DHHS reviews child abuse cases it contracted out

Source: Matthew Stone, Bangor Daily News, March 28, 2018
 
Maine’s child welfare program is revisiting six-and-a-half months of child abuse reports it received and referred to contractors who intervene in “lower-risk” abuse and neglect cases. The Office of Child and Family Services earlier this month asked the four contractors who handle those lower-risk cases to comb through their records dating back to last Aug. 31 and re-report to the state many of the families whose cases they were assigned. The state would then review those cases. The request indicates that the state’s alternative response programs, which the four contractors run in their respective regions, are one area of focus for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services following the deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy and four-year-old Kendall Chick, allegedly at the hands of their caregivers. …