Comptroller says delayed security contracts put state employees at risk

Source: MARK JOHNSON, Associated Press (NY), December 6, 2005, 5:54 PM EST

Delays in issuing contracts for guard services continue to raise the security risks for state employees and people visiting state buildings while also wasting taxpayer funds, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s office said Tuesday. A state comptroller’s audit conducted in 2001 and 2002 found that private security companies hired by the state’s Office of General Services provided hundreds of unlicensed and unqualified guards to protect state buildings, universities and other facilities. …. Steve Madarasz, a spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest state government employees’ union in New York, said the situation reflects poorly on Gov. George Pataki.

Bill will look at licenses / Services could be outsourced

Source: Nancy Cook Lauer, Tallahassee Democrat (FL), Dec 7, 2005

A bill that could lead to outsourcing the jobs of 1,614 state workers moved forward Tuesday in the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill, SB 268 by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, requires the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles study the outsourcing of driver’s licenses services to see if they can be done cheaper and better by the private sector. ….. The Division of Driver Licenses currently has a $98 million budget and employs 1,614 full-time employees, with about 1,000 of them scattered around the state in 100 field offices. ….. Fred Dickinson, director of the state agency, told lawmakers that he’d be glad to do the study. He said later that similar studies have found that the state can administer driver’s licenses more efficiently and economically than can the private sector.

Governor's Relative Is Big Contract Winner

Source: ERIC LIPTON, New York Times, December 7, 2005

Rosemary Barbour happens to be married to a nephew of Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour. Since the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Barbour worked as a White House volunteer as a college student, she has been active in the Republican Party. She also happens to be one of the biggest Mississippi-based winners of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. To some contract watchdogs, this could be an example of how the federal government responsibly reached out to give a piece of the billions of dollars in federal hurricane-recovery work to a small Mississippi-based company owned by a Latina. Mrs. Barbour, 39, who was born in Guatemala but now lives in Jackson, Miss., is certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a disadvantaged small-business owner. But the $6.4 million in contracts received by her company, Alcatec L.L.C., have also elicited questions about possible favoritism.

Privatizing highways: solution or setback?

Source: PATRICK JACKSON and J.L. MILLER, The News Journal (DE), 11/27/2005

Mark Jackson is mystified by the notion that Delaware could plug its $2.7 billion shortfall in road construction money by leasing I-95 and Del. 1 to private companies. State officials say such a long-term highway lease could bring in as much as $3.5 billion right away, more than covering the gap between the $4.3 billion needed to finish all the work in the state’s six-year road plan and the $1.6 billion that will be available. Such a lease would mean private investors would run and maintain the road for 50 or 99 years — and collect tolls that almost certainly would go up. …… The concept lets private companies build or expand highways in return for the right to collect tolls for 50 years or more and claim tax breaks on highway wear and tear. The concept has been used sparingly in the United States, and the results have been mixed.

Laffey privatization plan is history

Source: DANIEL BARBARISI, Providence Journal (RI), Wednesday, November 30, 2005

CRANSTON – Mayor Stephen P. Laffey’s attempt to privatize the city’s vehicle maintenance services officially died Monday night, when the City Council declined to take the issue out of committee. The fate of the mayor’s proposal had essentially been sealed last week, when the council’s Ordinance Committee, on which six of the nine members serve, voted unanimously to reject Laffey’s plan to hire Cincinnati-based First Vehicle Services to do the same work with 5 employees that 10 city workers, including 7 mechanics, perform on Cranston’s police and public works vehicles. ….. Arthur Jordan, business manager for Local 1322 of the Laborers International Union of North America, had declared that First Vehicle could not do the promised work with less staff and that there would be significant “hidden costs.”

Mental-health reform lagging four years after planned overhaul

Source: Associated Press (NC), Monday, December 5, 2005

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Four years into a massive overhaul of the state’s $2.3 billion mental-health system, there is little proof that treatment has improved and there is growing evidence that the state’s complex system of care is worse than ever. …… Legislation approved in 2001 called for the dismantling of the state’s system of locally-run public mental-health agencies and turned the care of people with severe mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities over to private agencies. Money saved by shrinking state hospitals was expected to cover much of the costs of privatization. And care for the more than 358,000 North Carolina residents with mental illness was expected to improve. But since 2001, total admissions to the state hospitals have not dropped as expected, and adult admissions have grown rapidly.

State pulls plug on $10 million software pact


In a surprise move, Secretary of State Gigi Dennis canceled a $10 million contract Wednesday with a Virginia software company to set up the state’s new voter registration computer system. Dennis’ office had been having numerous problems with the computer software that the company, Accenture, had been developing to help the state integrate voter registrations in all 64 Colorado counties. ……. “When we saw these problems, we decided we were not going to throw good money after bad,” Dennis’ spokeswoman Dana Williams told The Associated Press, which broke the story early Wednesday about the contract cancellation. “We’re going to get this fixed as soon as we can.”

Gov't announces more Medicare safeguards

Source: KEVIN FREKING, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Thursday, December 1, 2005

Two weeks after being sued, the government said Thursday it put in place more safeguards to ensure that poor older people can fill their drug prescriptions on Jan. 1. In recent weeks, the government automatically has enrolled about 6 million people in private plans that will offer a new drug benefit under Medicare. The people in this category are called dual eligibles because they qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Even if the government misses enrolling just 1 percent of them, that means about 60,000 people potentially would have no prescription drug coverage come the new year. To address that, federal officials said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has contracted with two companies. When a customer enters a store, pharmacists will check with one contractor – Z-Tech Corp. of Rockville, Md. – to determine the customer’s eligibility for drug coverage. The pharmacists can bill a second contractor, Wellpoint Inc. of Indianapolis, which will enlist the customer in one of its drug plans.

Keeping jobs local: Burlington city law bans use of outsourcing

Source: Shay Totten, Vermont Guardian, December 2, 2005

Officials in Burlington have a message for companies that outsource jobs to faraway countries: Don’t come looking for business at City Hall. A resolution adopted unanimously by the city council on Nov. 21 sets a policy that the city will not give service contracts to contractors, subcontractors, and vendors who are not performing that work in the United States or Canada. An amendment to strike Canada from the ordinance failed on an 8-3 vote.

Canceled tech deal raises alarm in state / Colorado says firm that Texas uses isn't meeting expectations

Source: Corrie MacLaggan, Austin AMERICAN-STATESMAN (TX), Friday, December 02, 2005

Colorado’s cancellation this week of a $10.5 million contract for voter registration software is raising concerns about Texas’ nearly $1 billion contract with the same company to enroll residents in public assistance. …. Accenture, a global consulting and technology firm, took over operation of Texas Children’s Health Insurance Program call centers Monday from Affiliated Computer Services Inc. It is expected to begin operating Texas’ eligibility call centers for food stamps and Medicaid in 2006. The Texas State Employees Union on Thursday urged state officials to delay implementing the contract.