City moves to privatize sludge treatment operations

Source: By MARK McDONALD, Philadelphia News (PA), Mon, Feb. 27, 2006

Responding to changes in technology and warnings that the city is violating its own air-quality laws, the Street administration is proposing to privatize the water department’s biosolids recycling center in southwest Philadelphia. If Street convinces City Council to approve the contracts, the privatization will be the city’s first major outsourcing in a decade. The city wants to sign a long-term agreement with Synagro, a Houston-based company that operates in 23 states, to build a $66 million plant on the city’s current biosolids operation on Penrose Avenue near the airport. For the roughly 100 city employees who treat and compost the sludge into a dry substance that is either landfilled or turned into a compost known as “EarthMate,” the city will offer jobs elsewhere in the government. Or, they can apply for jobs with the company. …… But Herman “Pete” Matthews, president of AFSCME District Council 33, said he will ask City Council to hold the proposed contracts until the union can mount its own counter-offer. The bills were introduced Feb. 16 by Majority Leader Jannie Blackwell on behalf of the administration.

Medical practices affirmed

Source: Associated Press (WY), Sunday, February 26, 2006

CHEYENNE (AP) — An independent audit of health services provided to Wyoming prison inmates reported improvement in the system since the last quarterly audit in October. The latest audit found that in December, only 5.8 percent of incoming inmates were not being given health screenings within 24 hours of arrival and only 1.6 percent of new arrivals were not screened within a week, according to the Department of Corrections. That was down from 36.2 percent and 27.3 percent, respectively, in October.

Contractor Plans Guilty Plea for Bribe-Case Role

Source: By Carol D. Leonnig and Charles R. Babcock, Washington Post, Friday, February 24, 2006

Washington defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade is expected to enter a guilty plea in federal court here this morning for his role in the bribery-related case involving former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), according to sources familiar with the investigation. Wade, who founded District-based MZM Inc., started cooperating months ago in the inquiry of Cunningham’s alleged trading of “earmarks” in congressional appropriations for $2.4 million in cash, furniture, boats and house payments, sources said. The probe began last June after the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Wade bought Cunningham’s San Diego home and then resold it months later for a $700,000 loss. A short time later, another newspaper reported that the congressman also was living rent-free on Wade’s 42-foot yacht while in Washington.

Ted K slams Mitt for outsourcing jobs: Mass. work farmed out to India, Utah

Source: By Kevin Rothstein, Boston Herald (MA), Thursday, February 23, 2006

Under fire from U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Romney administration yesterday defended its policy of outsourcing state jobs, saying that Massachusetts work formerly done in India is now handled in the United States – albeit in Utah. …. “Even governments are part of the offshoring bandwagon,” Kennedy said. “The state of Massachusetts has hired a contractor that uses workers in Bangladesh to process Medicaid data. It’s hired another contractor using workers in India to answer questions about food stamps.” Kennedy’s staff later acknowledged the jobs were sent to India, not Bangladesh, but argued that the principle is the same. ….. JPMorgan Chase, the previous food stamp contractor, had farmed out the call center work to India. When that contract expired, though, the state Department of Transitional Assistance required the work be done in the United States. Call center giant ACS was awarded the $27 million, seven-year contract.

Lawmaker question if contracting reform deal can be reached

Source: SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press (CT), February 23, 2006, 1:39 AM EST

HARTFORD, Conn. — Democratic legislators on Wednesday questioned whether it’s possible to pass a package of reforms to the state’s contracting system that Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell will sign this year. A bill that would have established a new board to oversee all state contracting was considered a key piece of reform legislation in the wake of the corruption scandal that sent former Gov. John G. Rowland to prison. But Rell vetoed two versions of the bill last year because they also would have regulated the outsourcing of state work. ….. Democrats and state unions say privatization standards, such as rules for wages paid to private employees and whether deals make financial sense, are necessary because there are no regulations now when a state agency hires an outside contractor to perform state work.

Q-C firms may lose county contract

Source: By Deirdre Cox Baker, Quad City Times (IA), Feb 22, 2006

An annual contract for food and laundry services at the Scott County Jail may switch from area firms to a national company based in Philadelphia. Scott County Sheriff Dennis Conard said Tuesday that the change to Aramark Correctional Services Inc. will provide a cost savings to the county and include several other advantages. But a county employee said the change may cost her job, and a representative of Thoms Proestler Co., Rock Island, said food costs would be less with the area firm. ….. Further, Aramark can provide food transportation to the jail annex at 46th and Tremont streets in Davenport, work that is handled now by county staff. Laundry services now managed by a Scott County correctional officer would be managed by an Aramark employee, and Conard said additional savings should come from bulk purchases made by the Aramark, which has services across North America and in Europe.

Legislators looking to save money on Medicaid services

Source: BY SUSAN K. LIVIO, Star-Ledger (NJ), Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Senate panel yesterday dissected the state’s $4.5billion budget for Medicaid, the health insurance program for 1million New Jerseyans, mining it for savings that include limiting services and hiring a team of auditors to detect fraud and bookkeeping problems. ….. The state typically hires contractors to scour the budget in search of savings. Ann Kohler, director of the state Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services, said Maximus and the Public Consulting Group have identified more than $40million the program could earn through new funding and increased efficiency this year. In return, the contractors are paid about 5 percent of what the state ultimately collects from those recommendations.

Federal probe costly for firm

Source: By Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES, February 22, 2006

A Reston-based company said it has spent $500,000 in legal costs for an internal review of its handling of Medicaid claims for the D.C. government in the face of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Maximus Inc. said the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice sought company records pertaining to the company’s work for the District, “primarily relating to the preparation and submission of federal Medicaid claims,” according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ….. The company first disclosed the investigation in 2004, saying in an SEC filing that it was confident the company had not broken any health care laws. ….. Maximus has contracted with the D.C. government for years. The company recently has won contracts to handle the District’s welfare-to-work program and to provide Medicaid billing services for the city’s public school system.

Guest columnist: Professionalism, not privatization, needed for school bus safety

Source: By Frank Flynn, Daily Advertiser (LA), Feb 22, 2006

When transporting our children to and from school, the Lafayette Democratic Party believes the first priority of the school board must be the safety of our children. For the safety of our children, we believe in professionalism, not privatization……… Across the country, privatization has resulted in greater risk to schoolchildren who are forced to ride in buses driven by unprofessional, low-paid drivers. The profits of privatization are taken from the community and sent to out-of-state companies. A study commissioned by the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government concluded that privatization does not necessarily result in lower costs and often the quality of service deteriorates when profit becomes the primary motivation. Contractors often provide inferior wages and benefits, which attract less qualified drivers. Paying inferior wages and benefits and hiring less qualified drivers increases the profit of the contractor, takes money out of the community, and places at risk the safety our children. Without adequate pay and benefits, private contractors experience a high turnover rate of drivers. This creates problems when new drivers are unfamiliar with school bus routes. Privatization also diminishes public accountability because the school board members cannot directly address parents’ and students’ complaints.

Citing subpar meals, service, sheriff fires jail's food provider

Source: By KAREN KELLER, HERALD NEWS (NJ), Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Passaic County Jail inmate prayers — and stomach rumblings — have been heard. Sheriff Jerry Speziale is firing the jail’s meal provider, Aramark, and inmates will take charge of the kitchen come May, Speziale spokesman Bill Maer said. “We can do it as well as them at this point,” he said. The company’s $1.7 million annual contract is being terminated based on poor “quality, service, attentiveness,” Maer said. Jail officials haven’t estimated how much they will save by cooking in-house, but the financial aspect is secondary, Maer said. Inmates said the food is cold, measly in portion size, not varied enough and served on dirty trays, forcing some to pay as much as $200 a month on prepackaged food from the jail’s commissary.