The Roots of Privatization

Source: Matthew Wills, JSTOR Daily, April 23, 2018
 
The privatization of the pubic sector has been one of the defining policies of the world economy since the 1970s. State-owned utilities and monopolies have been sold off or transferred to the private sector on the neoliberal theory that “the market” is more rational and better able to manage such enterprises. Under the Pinochet dictatorship, Chile set the stage, moving towards privatizing the state in the 1970s. Under Thatcher, the U.K. began privatizing in the 1980s. The Spanish scholar Germà Bel addresses where the idea of privatization comes from. Neoliberalism, predicated on a primacy of the market, is the overarching ideology of privatization. …

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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The Effects of State Delinquent Tax Collection Outsourcing on Administrative Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Procedural Fairness

Source: Sungkyu Jang, Robert J. Eger,
The American Review of Public Administration, April 6, 2018

Abstract
Since the 1980s, state governments have been using private debt collection agencies as facilitators and expediters in the delinquent tax collection process. The use of private collection agencies incorporates administrative effectiveness, efficiency, and procedural fairness, which can lead to an increase in revenues without affecting either the tax base or rate while protecting taxpayers. Using state-level panel data for the years 2000 to 2011, the administrative effectiveness outcome is that private collectors do not reduce the aggregate delinquent tax inventory, but the administrative efficiency outcome is that private collectors reduce collection cost. For procedural fairness, private collectors have a positive effect on the number of tax appeals filed in a state tax department with a Republican governor; however, they decrease the number of tax appeals filed with an outside-independent tax appeal agency.

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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. ….

Middleton plan commission delays action on psychiatric hospital

Source: David Wahlberg, Wisconsin State Journal, April 11, 2018

Middleton officials on Tuesday delayed action on a proposed psychiatric hospital after asking executives with the company behind it to explain its regulatory record, including immediate jeopardy citations in other states. “How are you going to apply the lessons which you have learned from other facilities to Middleton?” Mayor Gurdip Brar asked representatives of Strategic Behavioral Health, which plans a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in the city’s Airport Road Business Park. Jim Shaheen, founder and president of the for-profit company in Memphis, Tennessee, said the citations, reported by the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, stem from occasional problems at the company’s 10 hospitals in six states. … Strategic Behavioral Health has had nine immediate jeopardy violations at four facilities in three states since 2014, plus other sanctions in other states, the State Journal reported. Immediate jeopardy citations are rare and could indicate systemic problems, experts said, but they’re also given out more in some places than others.

Wastewater company to pay state $1.6 million to settle spill

Source: Sarah Betancourt, Associated Press, April 10, 2018

A wastewater treatment firm agreed Tuesday to pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit with Massachusetts for a spill in which more than 10 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into state-owned woodlands in Plymouth and Plymouth Harbor. The settlement by Veolia Water North America Northeast is believed to be the largest ever paid for violations of the state’s Clean Waters Act, officials said. Attorney General Maura Healey said the company failed to properly maintain a piping system that carried wastewater from customers to the treatment facility in Plymouth, causing a spill from December 2015 to January 2016. Veolia also allegedly discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into Plymouth Harbor in three separate incidences in 2012. … Veolia continues to operate the Plymouth wastewater plant. Plymouth has a separate suit against Veolia North America that contends the company also is responsible for a 2015 sewage spill that officials claim impacted the town. The Attorney General’s office also has a separate lawsuit against Plymouth, filed in 2016.

After issues with Aramark, Broome County continues search for food service provider

Source: Monika Hammer, WBNG, April 10, 2018

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar says the process is underway to find a new service provider for the Willow Point Nursing Home. In February, Garnar announced he would cut ties with a company that provides food service to three Broome County operations. “We’ve had some major issues with the food service provider Aramark and we decided that we want to disengage from the contract for several reasons,” Garnar said. …

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Broome County officials knew of Aramark issues in August, thought they could work it out
Source: Hannah Schwarz, Press & Sun-Bulletin, April 2, 2018

Problems with Aramark’s food service at Willow Point Nursing Home surfaced as early as 2016 — and several Broome County officials were aware of issues as early as August 2017 — but the county didn’t sever its contract with the company until February because officials believed Aramark could remedy the issues. Emails from former Willow Point Interim Director Denise Johnson obtained by the Press & Sun-Bulletin/pressconnects.com, as well as emails between Deputy County Executive Kevin McManus and Aramark Regional Manager John Sidorakis, obtained via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, show tray line service had been “problematic since ‘day one,'” and the county had been requesting reimbursement for more than eight to nine months. In a July 31 email, Johnson, who left the interim position in September when current director Ryan LaClair took over, said Aramark was requesting $100,000 in additional reimbursement from the county in what she believed was a misinterpretation of the contract. She also said Aramark was providing “untimely” meal service that was not expected to do well at the facility’s upcoming Department of Health inspection, and that Aramark had yet to set up steam table service. …

Aramark details plans for Broome County’s meals
Source: John Roby, Press and Sun-Bulletin, January 14, 2016

Aramark officials detailed the company’s plan to take over Broome County’s food service operations to members of the legislature Thursday in the first public outline of the $3.4 million proposal. … The savings would result largely from the removal of 41 full-time and 34 part-time employees of Central Kitchen and the Willow Point dietary unit from the county payroll. Aramark will employ up to seven inmates to prepare meals — under company and sheriff’s supervision — at the jail, while company employees will cook and serve meals at the nursing home and those for delivery. … Aramark will charge Broome a per-meal fee that is set to increase each year of the five-year deal. Nursing home meals will start at $6.54 and rise to $7.36 in 2020, delivery meals will start at $3.90 and rise to $4.39, and inmate meals will increase from $1.76 to $2.

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Citizen Attitudes Towards Public–Private Partnerships

Source: Eric J. Boyer and David M. Van Slyke, The American Review of Public Administration, April 12, 2018

Abstract
This study examines the factors that influence public attitudes toward public–private partnerships (PPPs) through an analysis of public opinion data collected in 2014. Although previous literature has examined public attitudes toward government contracting and asset privatization, there is little understanding of how the public feels about more collaborative forms of public–private interaction. Counter to previous studies that suggest that support for free enterprise and a disdain for government increases support for private involvement in public services, we find that attitudes toward PPPs are nuanced: Respondents favor them not only when they have positive feelings toward the business sector but also when they also report trust in government. PPPs are thus perceived not as a replacement to public administration, but as a delivery model that demands competence and trust of both public and private partners. The results also explain a previously unstudied relationship between respondent familiarity with PPPs and their attitudes toward them. Counter to expectations, we find that the more familiarity that respondents have with PPPs, the more likely they are to view them favorably. We also identify factors that predict public opinions of PPPs which can inform public outreach and public involvement programs involved with PPPs.

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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. …

Council approves second year of Rumpke contract as costs continue to rise

Source: Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch, April 9, 2018

No savings have emerged more than a year after Columbus agreed to pay its vendor more to collect recycling and yard waste with the caveat that it would seek new ways to trim its costs. City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve the second year of an anticipated five-year agreement for curbside recycling and yard waste collection. The city will pay Cincinnati-based Rumpke about $8.7 million in 2018, up from about $8.5 million last year. … The city is paying significantly more for recycling and yard waste collections now than it did when it launched curbside pickups in 2012.Rumpke has been the city’s vendor since the curbside pickups began. The company held a five-year contract, and when that came up for renewal last year Rumpke was the only bidder for a new five-year deal. Rumpke’s bid was 50 percent higher than its first deal, though, citing a depressed market for recyclables and other factors that contributed to the increase. …