Category Archives: Oversight/Contract.Management

Governor’s opposition to Puerto Rico fiscal plan could end up in court

Source: Brian Tumulty and Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 20, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The latest fiscal turnaround plan for Puerto Rico could be headed for a court showdown after Gov. Ricardo Rossello vowed he won’t implement key parts of the proposed austerity measures. The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico approved the plan by a 6-1 vote Thursday after negotiations with the commonwealth’s government failed. “The Oversight Board expects the Governor to fully implement the certified fiscal plans,” Jaime El Khoury, the Board’s general counsel, said in an email. “Should the Oversight Board have to resort to litigation to carry out its mandate under [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act], the matter would be before Judge [Laura] Swain in the Title III court.” The controversy centers over whether the oversight board overreached the authority given to it by Congress for addressing the commonwealth’s debt problems. …

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AFSCME President Lee Saunders Slams Puerto Rico Oversight Board Plan
Source: AFSCME Press Release, April 20, 2018
 
The following statement was issued by AFSCME President Lee Saunders following the release of the federally-appointed Puerto Rico fiscal oversight board’s financial plan: “The Fiscal Plan issued by the Oversight Board is a betrayal of the people of Puerto Rico. By issuing a plan that relies upon unrealistic projections of economic growth, the Board is condemning Puerto Rico to economic decline for years to come. Ironically, the Board is engaging in the same fantastical thinking regarding Puerto Rico’s economic growth that created the current situation. We call on the Board to reconsider this disastrous decision and develop a plan in the interests of the people.” …

Hurricane Aid Has Eased Puerto Rico’s Finances. It May Not Be Enough. 
Source: Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times, April 19, 2018

Billions of dollars of disaster aid flowing into Puerto Rico since last fall’s devastating hurricane have boosted the bankrupt island’s finances, but the island’s federal overseers said Thursday that it would take still more austerity to translate those temporary gains into a lasting recovery. At a meeting in San Juan of the territory’s federal oversight board, members called on Puerto Rico to reform its labor laws and fix its insolvent government pension system quickly, while it still had the benefit of both the disaster money and court protection from creditors under a special new bankruptcy law for United States territories. Retired government workers would see their pensions, already less than $25,000 a year for many workers, cut by an average of 10 percent; current government workers would be shifted into a 401(k) plan; and workers in Puerto Rico’s private sector would lose mandatory perks like a holiday bonus, usually $300 to $600 a year. …

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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
(Subscription Required)

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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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. …

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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. …

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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. …

ICE Broke Contracting Rules in Establishing Its Largest Detention Facility

Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, February 27, 2018
 
The nation’s largest immigrant detention facility was procured improperly, according to a watchdog report, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2014 using an existing agreement with a town in Arizona as a vehicle to establish the center 900 miles away in Texas. Since 2014, ICE has spent $438,000 annually for Eloy, Ariz., to serve solely as a middleman for a 2,400-bed detention facility in Dilley, Texas, according to the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general. The agency first contracted with the city of Eloy in 2006 to establish the Eloy Detention Center, which the city subcontracted to a company called CCA. ICE reached the agreement with Eloy through a process known as an intergovernmental service agreement, or IGSA. …

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Texas prison is big business for Eloy
Source: Tanner Clinch, Tri Valley Central, July 4, 2016

The city makes more money from a private immigration detention facility located in Texas than it does from the one housed in Eloy, budget figures show. The tentative budget for Eloy is around $38 million, but that reflects only a fraction of the actual money that passes through the city. Every year roughly $290 million is given to the city by the federal government in what’s called agency pass-through funds, which go directly to Corrections Corporation of America. Of this $290 million, around $37 million goes to operate Eloy Detention Center and the rest, $253 million, goes to run another Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center over 900 miles away in the small town of Dilley, Texas. … The federal government did not go through a traditional, and possibly long, bidding process to decide who would run the facility, and the Eloy City Council modified the intergovernmental services agreement it already had with ICE to include the Dilley facility. Eloy gets a good deal out of the agreement, according to City Manager Harvey Krauss. The city itself received $450,000 from the Dilley facility and $96,000 for the Eloy facility during fiscal year 2015-16 just to act as a fiscal agent between ICE and CCA, according to the city’s budget. …

Dept. of Corrections awards private prison beds contract
Source: Lindsey Reiser, KPHO CBS5, September 01, 2012

A private prison company is getting a multimillion dollar contract for a new prison in our Arizona. But not everyone is celebrating. The contract goes to “Corrections Corporation of America” and according to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), the company will house 1,000 medium-security male inmates.

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FEMA Contract Called for 30 Million Meals for Puerto Ricans. 50,000 Were Delivered.

Source: Patricia Mazzei and Agustin Armendariz, New York Times, February 6, 2018
 
The mission for the Federal Emergency Management Agency was clear: Hurricane Maria had torn through Puerto Rico, and hungry people needed food. Thirty million meals needed to be delivered as soon as possible.  For this huge task, FEMA tapped Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past. FEMA awarded her $156 million for the job, and Ms. Brown, who is the sole owner and employee of her company, Tribute Contracting LLC, set out to find some help. … By the time 18.5 million meals were due, Tribute had delivered only 50,000. And FEMA inspectors discovered a problem: The food had been packaged separately from the pouches used to heat them. FEMA’s solicitation required “self-heating meals.” …

Fight Club: Audit documents Florida juvenile justice failures

Source: Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, January 19, 2018

Florida juvenile justice administrators sometimes fail to report the deficiencies of their privately run youth programs, and don’t always ensure breakdowns are corrected even when they are documented, says a new report by the state’s Auditor General. The state’s top government auditor reviewed the Department of Juvenile Justice’s oversight of contracts for 10 of 54 privately run residential programs — totaling $251.3 million in state dollars — examining the department’s compliance with state laws, as well as department rules and policies. The review, which is dated January 2018, looked at agency contracts for the budget year 2016. …

… The 21-page audit was released about three months after a Miami Herald series exposed long-standing, far-ranging lapses in oversight and accountability throughout the state’s juvenile justice system. The Herald investigation, called Fight Club, revealed a broad range of abuses, including the hiring of youth care workers with criminal records and histories of violence and sexual misconduct, the widespread use of unnecessary and excessive force, the sexual abuse of detainees and the outsourcing of discipline by staff members — who sometimes offer teens snack foods as a reward for doling out beatings. The series also highlighted a troubling history of medical neglect by officers, youth workers and even nurses assigned to youth programs. Lax contract monitoring was a persistent theme in one of the stories reported by the Herald in October. …

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Fight Club: A Miami Herald Investigation Into Florida’s Juvenile Justice System
Source: Miami Herald, October 2017

… Documents, interviews and surveillance videos show a disturbing pattern of beatings doled out or ordered by underpaid officers, hundreds of them prison system rejects. Youthful enforcers are rewarded with sweet pastries from the employee vending machines, a phenomenon known as “honey-bunning.” The Herald found fights staged for entertainment, wagering and to exert control, sex between staff and youthful detainees and a culture of see-nothing/say-nothing denial. Herald journalists also examined 12 questionable deaths of detained youths since 2000. In the end, untold numbers of already troubled youths have been further traumatized. With a one-year recidivism rate of 45 percent, it is a justice system that is supposed to reform juvenile delinquents, but too often turns them into hardened felons.