Category Archives: Websites/Databases/Blogs

Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria Contract Spending Revisited

Source: Project on Government Oversight, January 8, 2018

Back in October, the Project On Government Oversight did a top-level analysis of federal government spending on Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria recovery contracts, as reported by the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). The FPDS spreadsheets contain a wealth of data that allow the public to track billions of dollars in federal contract expenditures in precise detail: the agency awarding the money, the amount, the purpose, and the recipient. At that time, the government had spent a total of $1.65 billion on contracts. However, FPDS imposes a 90-day delay on the release of Department of Defense (DoD) data, so we were missing a big piece of the spending puzzle. Now, DoD numbers are starting to trickle in and we are getting a more complete picture of federal contracting outlays for the recovery efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The federal contract award total now stands at $3.3 billion: $1.2 billion for Harvey$726 million for Irma, and $1.4 billion for Maria. … Federal expenditures on Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria contracts have now surpassed the $3 billion spent for Hurricane Sandy and are steadily approaching the $20 billion total for Hurricane Katrina. As the total grows, so too will the misuse of those funds. To that end, POGO plans to release a database that will track all federal spending relating to Hurricane Harvey. …

50-State Comparison: Vouchers

Source: Micah Ann Wixom, Education Commission of the States, March 6, 2017

Education Commission of the States researched voucher policies and programs in all states to provide this comprehensive resource. Click on the questions below for 50-state comparisons showing how all states approach specific voucher policies. View a specific state’s approach by going to the state profiles page. Note that some states have more than one voucher program.

50-State Comparisons

  1. Does the state have a voucher program?
  2. Program name
  3. Student eligibility requirements
  4. Previous public school attendance requirement
  5. Enrollment limits
  6. Voucher amount
  7. Testing requirement
  8. Private school participation standards
  9. Other
  10. All data points for all states

Related resources

Steal Another City’s Study

Source: Rachel Dovey, Next City, March 13, 2017

With more than 90,000 governments — think state, county, city — making up the U.S. government, it makes no sense that so many of them operate as silos. A new project wants to address this where issues of operational efficiency are concerned. The Operational Excellence in Government project, from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center, “identifies operational efficiency themes across state and local governments” by pulling from over 200 state and local reports on efficiency — and allowing officials to see them side-by-side, or search them by topic. According to the project’s website, it aims to pinpoint cost saving opportunities, recommend proven efficiencies and provide implementation guidance. In short, it’s a kind of meta-report — about a bunch of reports. On the front end, though, it also provides a searchable database, where officials can use keywords to see research that’s been done on any given topic, or search umbrella topics. Click on “Operations,” for example, and you’ll see related research about federal procurement and contractor team formation. …

Read full report.

(Ed. note: The Operations topic includes subtopics such as privatization, shared services, and public-private partnerships.)

School choice producing segregation in districts across the state

Source: Mike Wilkinson, Bridge, September 20, 2016

For more than a decade, Holland Public Schools has watched its enrollment fall, prompting the closure – and demolition – of multiple schools. The decline is not the result of an aging community with fewer, school-age children. Rather, it’s largely a reflection of Michigan’s generous school choice policies. Choice has, consciously or not, left districts like Holland not only scrambling for students, but more racially segregated as its white students leave, often for districts that are less diverse. … In the two decades since Michigan adopted school choice, Holland’s white enrollment has plummeted 60 percent, with 2,100 fewer white students. Today, whites comprise 49 percent of school-age children living in the district, but only 38 percent the school population (Hispanics make up 47 percent of Holland schools). From Holland to metro Detroit, Flint to Jackson, tens of thousands of parents across Michigan are using the state’s schools of choice program to move students out of their resident districts and into ones that are more segregated, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment data shows. … Today, Bridge chronicles segregation patterns in districts across the state. You can use this Bridge database to see if choice has impacted student demography in your district. …

60 SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS ACROSS 15 COUNTRIES SHOW GROWING GLOBAL REACH/22 SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS HAVE POSTED RESULTS SINCE FIRST LAUNCH IN 2010

Source: Social Finance, July 5, 2016

The Social Finance Global Network launches today (5 July) its latest white paper, Social Impact Bonds: The Early Years.

Key highlights of the report:

  • 60 Social Impact Bonds have launced in 15 countries, raising more than $200m in investment to address social challenges
  • 22 projects have posted results, 21 of which have posted positive outcomes for beneficiaries.
  • 12 programmes have made outcomes payments and 4 Social Impact Bonds have repaid investors in full with a return on their investment

The white paper reflects the shared lessons from the Social Finance Global Network, across sister organizations in the UK, US and Israel-which, together, represent the largest pool of Social Impact Bond expertise globally, across multiple jurisdictions. …

… Alongside the paper, Social Finance is also launching its live global database of Social Impact Bonds. The database can be sorted by country, issue area, investor, payor and service provider, providing a comprehensive overview of Social Impact Bonds launched to date and a snapshot of the many in development. This is an important open platform for the community of global practitioners and others who are actively following this rapidly evolving field. User input will be critical to develop this living, collaborative resource.

Related:

Social Impact Bonds: The Early Years
Source: Social Finance, June 30, 2016

The Social Finance global network is launching its first white paper on the state of the Social Impact Bond market on 5 July. The paper will look back to the launch of the first Social Impact Bond in Peterborough in 2010 and chart the development and take up of the model across different countries and different social issues. … We reflect on the value and impact the model has brought to delivering more effective programs, the complexity the model entails in identifying social outcomes and attribution methods, and the opportunities we believe will present to the market in the future. Key questions discussed include:

  • What makes a successful Social Impact Bond market?
  • Are Social Impact Bonds really as complex as they seem?
  • How do Social Impact Bonds scale?
  • What follows a Social Impact Bond?

Alongside the paper, we will be launching the most comprehensive online database of Social Impact Bonds worldwide. The online directory can be sorted by country, issue area, investor, payer or service provider, giving a complete overview of live and proposed programmes worldwide. Developed by the three Social Finance offices in the United Kingdom, Israel, and the United States—the map provides users with a view of the Social Impact Bond ecosystem, and functions as a market-sharing tool for those interested in the global Impact Investing market.

IRS Unleashes Flood of Searchable Charity Data

Source: Peter Olsen-Phillips, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 15, 2016

The Internal Revenue Service opened a gusher of information on nonprofits Wednesday by making electronically filed Form 990s available in bulk and in a machine-friendly format. The material will be available through the Public Data Sets area of Amazon Web Services. It will also include information from digital versions of the 990-EZ form filed by smaller nonprofits and form 990-PFs filed by private foundations. The change means the public will have quicker and more in-depth access to the 990, the primary disclosure document for and main source of information on tax-exempt organizations. The form includes data on groups’ finances, board members, executive pay, fundraising expenses, and other aspects of their operations. The filings were previously made public as PDF documents, requiring costly manual entry or imprecise character-recognition technology to extract the data in bulk and make it searchable. Now the information can be downloaded and parsed for free by anyone with a computer.

Related:

IRS opens up Form 990 data, ushering nonprofit sector into the age of transparency
Source: Alex Howard, Sunlight Foundation, June 16, 2016

Making meaningful improvements to how the federal government uses the internet can take years, new laws, regulations, demonstration projects, testimony and dogged persistence by public interest advocates and reformers in the pursuit of change. Then, all at once, a dam breaks and a new resource blossoms into a commons online. June 15, 2016 was such a day, when the IRS has begun publishing electronic nonprofit tax returns online in a machine-readable format on Amazon Web Services. … Over the past decade, however, the IRS has not embraced publishing the tax returns of charities — called Form 990s — as open data with joy and enthusiasm, despite the clear value of opening the $1.6 trillion nonprofit sector to transparency and innovation. In fact, Malamud had to win a federal lawsuit to get the tax agency to do what it should have been doing anyway. After a federal court ordered the IRS to disclose Form 990s as open data in 2015, however, the agency subsequently announced that it would begin working to release all of the data from electronically filed nonprofit tax returns available in a machine-readable format online by early 2016. …

A New Funding Strategy from the Clean Water Partnership P3

Source: Greg Cannito, Water Utility Infrastructure Management, April 20, 2016

Signed in March 2015, the Clean Water Partnership is a long-term public-private partnership between Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Corvias Solutions, to retrofit up to 4,000 acres of impervious surfaces using green infrastructure and low-impact development practices in the first three years and operate and maintain over the remaining life of the 30-year partnership. Corvias intends to deliver compliant, sustainable stormwater infrastructure with accelerated timelines and reduced costs, in accordance with Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and U.S. EPA standards. … MDE’s Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund (also known as the State Revolving Fund) provides below-market rate loans to encourage capital investments in water projects, in accordance with the Federal Clean Water Act and the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Up until now, State Revolving Funds have primarily been used to fund construction of wastewater treatment plants. However, exploratory conversations with MDE revealed the historical barriers to utilizing State Revolving Funds for stormwater management. State Revolving Funds offer a lower interest rates to regulated communities and even lower interest rates to Disadvantaged Communities equal to 25 percent of the market rate, for an all-in rate of 1.20 percent (compared to the standard rate of 50 percent of the Market Rate, 2.00 percent). This saves over $9 million compared to typical municipal debt financing. … While many types of P3 structures exist, the private partner in the relationship has traditionally not sought out state financing for the public partner. However, Prince George’s County and Corvias could not let this opportunity slip by. While MDE’s financing program had not been invested in a significant amount of stormwater work previously due to the piecemealed nature of stormwater project delivery, the aggregated nature of the Clean Water Partnerships delivery structure and their ability to execute larger scopes in a shorter period of time enabled the $48 million loan application—and the combination of cost of capital, flexible terms, and its unique characteristics made it the optimal source of financing available to fund the large volume of stormwater projects.

Related:

A New P3 Model for Building Green Infrastructure
Source: Daniel C. Vock, Governing, May 27, 2015

One Maryland county is testing a unique public-private partnership that would not only save money but also help the environment and local economy. Leaders in Maryland’s Prince George’s County face an enormous task in complying with a federal “pollution diet” to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Over the next decade, the county must convert 15,000 acres of watertight surfaces — almost 5 percent of the county’s total area — into surfaces that will either soak up or treat rainwater. To meet that deadline, Prince George’s will have to add some 46,000 stormwater devices, said Adam Ortiz, the director of the county’s environment department. “This isn’t like building one high school or a bridge. We’re building tens of thousands of little ecosystems in some of our most disadvantaged areas. We need a new approach.” So Prince George’s, which borders Washington, D.C., is turning to a public-private partnership to help install the rain gardens, cisterns, permeable pavements, and other devices for filtering and absorbing stormwater. Slowing the rapid runoff from roads and rooftops could reduce pollution that flows into sewers and, eventually, into the Chesapeake Bay. Using a public-private partnership to build green infrastructure on such a large scale is novel in itself. But the county is especially excited about the potential economic boost and other societal benefits the deal could bring to the region. Its partnership with Corvias Solutions includes incentives for all of those goals. …. Prince George’s County, for its part, will test whether Corvias can deliver on its promises. Initially, the company will be charged with converting 2,000 acres by 2017. But if it performs well, that amount could double. Meanwhile, a team of county workers will be “racing” Corvias to build stormwater improvements. The county team will also have 2,000 acres to work on so that officials can compare the two approaches. That information will help the county decide whether to expand the public-private partnership. It will also help other jurisdictions decide whether they also want to try something similar. …..

Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2015

…EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center will serve as a resource for communities, municipal utilities, and private entities as they seek to address water infrastructure needs with limited budgets. The Center will support communities and explore creative and innovative financing practices, including public-private partnerships. It will build on the highly successful State Revolving Fund and other EPA programs and those of its federal partners and explore ways to leverage these programs to increase investment in the water sector. The Center will build partnerships and support work that brings together investors and interested communities. It will be an avenue to expand technical assistance, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, workshops, case studies and toolkits for financing alternatives.

The Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center will:
– Explore innovative financial tools, public-private partnership opportunities and non-traditional finance concepts to better leverage existing federal funding programs. An example of a recent public-private partnership in the water sector is the EPA, Maryland Department of Environment and Prince George’s County Public-Private Partnership Model to Accelerate Green Stormwater Controls and Support Local Job Creation.
– Explore ways to increase financing climate-resilient water infrastructure projects through integration of water efficiency, energy efficiency, water reuse and green infrastructure.
– Support communities to develop sustainable sources of funding for water infrastructure, particularly through stormwater utilities and green infrastructure projects.
– Collaborate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Services and other federal agencies to maximize its support for small community drinking water and wastewater systems and increase small systems’ technical, managerial and financial capacities….

….For more information about water infrastructure needs for your state, see the table: Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs by State

Contractors Paid Billions in Environmental Penalties

Source: Project on Government Oversight, April 22, 2016

The federal government’s largest contractors paid more than $38 billion in penalties for environmental violations over the last 21 years, according to the Project On Government Oversight’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD). In honor of Earth Day, POGO elaborates on some of the more recent cases of environmental misconduct. Since 1995, POGO has tracked almost 400 instances of environmental violations by the top federal contractors in cases brought by local, state, federal, and international government agencies, non-governmental groups, and individuals. The FCMD is a compilation of misconduct and alleged misconduct by federal contractors categorized into 18 different types, including environmental. The FCMD’s environmental violation penalty total is understated due to the nearly 40 instances in which the penalty amount is either unknown or undisclosed. An additional 38 instances remain pending.

Related:

Big Pharma, Oil Dominate List of Federal Contractors Most Penalized for Misconduct
Source: Neil Gordon, Project on Government Oversight, November 12, 2015

For the first time since the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) began tracking misconduct by the largest federal contractors, pharmaceutical and oil companies make up the top five highest penalized companies in POGO’s annual update. Started in 2002 as a way to highlight misconduct among the federal government’s largest contractors, the top of POGO’s list has traditionally been dominated by the defense industry. This year, the list of the 10 contractors that have paid the largest penalties is dominated by pharma or oil services companies. While some of the companies have contracts with the Pentagon, none are what POGO considers “traditional” defense contractors. … Visit POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database to access the latest compilation of instances of misconduct and alleged misconduct committed by top federal contractors from 1995 to the present.

Federal Government’s Largest Contractors Have Paid Billions in Fines, Penalties
Source: Project On Government Oversight’s (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, Press Release, March 13, 2013

The federal government’s largest suppliers of goods and services have accumulated more than $59 billon in fines, penalties, and settlements since 1995 according to the Project On Government Oversight’s (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

POGO has added 12 new entities to the database, including telecom giant Verizon Communications and health insurer Highmark. Verizon has 24 instances of misconduct for which it incurred $477.5 million in penalties. Highmark has 7 instances and $59.3 million in penalties. The database now contains the civil, criminal, and administrative misconduct track records of a total of 172 contractors.

The database’s new top 100 federal contractors—ranked according to fiscal year 2011 contract spending data reported on the Federal Procurement Data System—received 55 percent of the $537 billion in federal contracts awarded that year. As of today, these 100 contractors have accumulated 932 misconduct instances and $41 billion in monetary penalties since 1995.

50-State Comparison: Charter School Policies

Source: Education Commission of the States, February 2016

Charter schools are semi-autonomous public schools that operate under a written contract with a state, district or other entity (referred to as an authorizer or sponsor). This contract—or charter—details how the school will be organized and managed, what students will be expected to achieve, and how success will be measured. Many charter schools enjoy freedom from laws and regulations affecting other public schools, as long as they continue to meet the terms of their charters. At the present time, 43 states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws. Charter school laws vary from state to state, and often differ on several important factors, such as who is allowed to authorize charter schools, how authorizers and charter schools are held accountable for student outcomes, and whether the teachers in a charter school have to be certified. Education Commission of the States has researched charter school policies in all states to provide this comprehensive resource, updated in January 2016. Click on the questions below for 50-state comparisons showing how all states approach specific charter school policies. Or, choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

New Search Engine Identifies the Biggest Corporate Violators

Source: Greg LeRoy, Huffington Post, November 4, 2015

Volkswagen cheats on emissions testing. General Motors fails to disclose a deadly ignition switch problem and is fined $900 million. JPMorgan Chase and three other large banks plead guilty to criminal charges of manipulating foreign exchange markets. ConAgra is penalized $11 million for distributing contaminated peanut butter. … Call it a corporate crime wave; there seems to be no end of big business transgressions. Companies have come to regard rising penalties as nothing more than a cost of doing business. They pay the fines and settlements, then resume business as usual. … Enter Violation Tracker, from Good Jobs First’s Corporate Research Project — the first search engine on corporate wrongdoing. Our initial version of the free database brings together about 100,000 cases with penalties of $5,000 or more initiated since 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and 11 other federal agencies dealing with the environment and a wide range of health and safety issues. It also includes settlements and verdicts in cases, both civil and criminal, referred by those agencies to the Justice Department. Additional violation categories — wage and hour, financial, false claims, price-fixing, bribery, etc. — will be added in the future.

Related:

New Corporate Misconduct Database Identifies Largest Environmental, Health and Safety Violators
Source: Good Jobs First Press Release, October 27, 2015

Eight large corporations have each been penalized more than $1 billion in environmental, health and safety cases brought by federal regulatory agencies since 2010. Forty have paid $100 million or more. … These are among the findings of BP and Its Brethren, a report analyzing information in Violation Tracker, a new database of corporate misconduct. Both were produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and are at violationtracker.org. The database includes 100,000 cases with penalties of $5,000 or more initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and 11 other agencies, including cases referred to the Justice Department. Additional violation categories will be added later.

Access Violation Tracker.