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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Gov. Bobby Jindal. (Associated Press)<br>

Gov. Bobby Jindal. (Associated Press)

Editorial: Transparency, accountability should be part of privatization efforts

Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 5:40 PM

Bobby Jindal is a huge proponent of privatization. He’s all for the government hiring private companies to take care of things the state government used to take care of all by itself, but didn’t do that efficiently.

Privatization is not a bad thing. The issue, though, is that government contracts worth millions of dollars are signed and legislators don’t get a chance to look at these contracts beforehand. And sometimes these contracted companies don’t deliver the goods and aren’t doing what they said they would do.

One state lawmaker wants to be allowed to review the contracts before they get signed. Jindal and his team don’t think this is a good idea. They argue that this “would add another layer of bureaucracy to an already burdensome process.”

Since the Legislature is constitutionally bound to oversee government finances, state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, believes legislators should at least get to read the contracts before they are signed.

A legislative audit last week turned up some unpleasant findings with one state contract that had turned over management of state behavioral health programs to a private company.

A Pennsylvania-based nutritional services company was hired to serve Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System. But one day the company “ran out of food,” according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. So they ordered 400 hamburgers from McDonald’s to feed the hospital patients.

This incident and other complaints from constituents were the catalyst that caused Havard to investigate further. He found out food was often delivered late to these patients, often with spoiled milk and without meat or vegetables.

As a result, Havard attempted to pass a “Privatization Review Act” in the Legislature that would have allowed lawmakers to look over contracts worth more than $5 million before the state signed them.

Back in May, Havard’s bill was killed during the last session by the Senate Finance Committee. His bill made it through two committees and the full House before it was killed by “the acolytes of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the self-proclaimed champion of transparency,” according to Advocate columnist Mark Ballard.

Louisiana taxpayers are currently paying for at least 12,000 such contracts. It’s our money. To say that a little transparency and accountability should be a part of these privatization efforts is an understatement.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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