Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an article on the latest development in FSSA’s so far ill-fated efforts to privatize the eligibility management system for deciding who is entitled to welfare benefits. Gov. Daniels wants to be personally involved with the decision. Typically, contracting decisions don’t go that far up into the executive branch bureaucracy. Instead such decisions are made by the contracting agency and the Dept. of Administration.
In this case the Governor has established an “interagency team” whose members include Deputy Chief of Staff, Earl Goode; Dept. of Administration Commissioner Carrie Henderson, Nate Feltman general counsel and chief of staff for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Karl Browning of the Office of Technology; State Budget Director Chuck Schalliol; and Debra Minot, director of the State Personnel Department.
The problem with the FSSA privatization so far is that there are only, apparently, two companies willing/able to provide the services. One (ACS) is tainted by conflict of interest involving Mitch Roob who worked for them for 4 years. The other (Accenture) performed poorly when it received a similar contract in Texas.
FSSA has historically been poorly run and a big sink of money. Part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that the agency exists to spend money on something nobody is terribly excited about — the needs of the poor. Partially as a consequence of that, the agency was never well designed. My understanding is that it was cobbled together out of several existing agencies that provided social services of one sort or another and the enacting legislation provided a relatively short duration for the overarching agency (but not the sub-departments of the agency). In any event, the agency is poorly designed and spends money we’d rather not spend, so it has a huge target on its back, and for the most part rightfully so.
But the zeal of the Daniels administration for privatization is an article of faith, not to be shaken by evidence that the private sector is, at times, less efficient than government. So, I expect this privatization to proceed, no matter how many layers of window dressing committee review Governor Daniels puts between here and the inevitable and regardless of whether the private company will be less effective at accurately determining who is entitled to benefits and who is not.