Government accountability, Hutchinson administration-style: High bidder wins; details secret | Arkansas Blog

Government accountability, Hutchinson administration-style: High bidder wins; details secret

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NEW OPERATOR: A higher bidder was chosen to operate the state's juvenile center at Alexander.
  • NEW OPERATOR: A higher bidder was chosen to operate the state's juvenile center at Alexander.

In the last few days, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has highlighted two major state financial decisions in which the best bidders didn't win the prize and state officials are refusing to disclose material information about the bidding process.

* JUVENILE LOCKUP: Hunter Field reported that the state has chosen a Nevada firm, Rite of Passage, that asked for $450,000 more a year to run the troubled youth lockup. State officials chose a company that has had some problems in its operations elsewhere (though it is probably true that there is no such thing as a trouble-free youth lockup.) What made the new operator so special? Not clear.

* HOME HEALTH SERVICES: Michael Wickline reported today on the decision to sell the state's home health care services to Kindred Health Care for $39 million, a net to the state of $24 million after expenses. Again, it's not clear why they state bypassed other bids, including one evaluated as a more profitable bid (here, higher would be better in dollars to the state and lower would be worse). Though who can be sorry one lower bid bypassed was that of a company involving Michael Morton, the infamous nursing home owner —think Mike Maggio — currently bankrolling a constitutional amendment  that sets the value of a human life,  no matter how abused and neglected by health professionals,at $250,000.

Note that any "profit" from this sale is probably illusory. Private operators don't make money by providing the same services government provided for less. Home health services depend on Medicare and Medicaid for support, so this is all government money to begin with. Somewhere down the line it is possible that the state will be spending more on the program than when it operated it itself and this one-time profit will be eaten up.

When politicians tell you they will run government like a business watch out. They might mean maximize profits, minimize disclosure, put customers' interests behind those of stockholders and take care of pals.


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