By Robert Mann
Almost every year since he’s been governor, Bobby Jindal and his legislative minions have rummaged around for ways to balance the budgets they undermined by slashing income taxes in 2008. They’ve spent massive amounts of one-time money, held a garage sale of state assets and launched a tax amnesty program.
I’m no management consultant, but here’s how I’d save a quick $5 million: Cancel that agreement and get serious about the billions that state officials spend unilaterally each year on unregulated consulting contracts.
Ask those who work or have worked for the state and they’ll tell you that their organizations waste millions of dollars each year on no-bid personal services, professional services and other contracts. In 2012 alone, Louisiana government spent $5.28 billion on professional, personal and consulting contracts.
Here’s how it works: Some senior official decides something needs to be done or studied. That official simply draws up a “professional service” or “personal service” contract and awards the work to the favored company or individual.
That’s how Jindal could spend $5 million of our money on the Alvarez and Marsal arrangement without putting the work out to bid.
That’s how we got a $94,000 contract with a California consultant to “assist students to learn valuable social skills through organized play on their recess and lunch periods.” That’s how the Department of Health and Hospitals can pay an individual $19,500 to “coordinate two Golden Glove Boxing tournaments.” That’s how the state can spend $57,100 to “inform and educate” the Hispanic community on seat belt usage.
The list of wasteful and silly contracts that state Treasurer John Kennedy shared with me is dizzying. Many state contracts fund vital work. Others, however, are a shocking waste and would never have been awarded if officials were required to first seek bids or legislative approval.
And there’s virtually no regulation or oversight of these contracts – that is until the Legislative Auditor’s Office takes note, which it recently did.