One thing about privatization, it provokes some strong opinions! Indiana is going full-throttle into privatization, beginning with the toll road and continuing with the food stamp program. It doesn’t sound so bad to me. I have heard complaint after complaint about how the government runs things, so why not give private business a chance to do it better?

Yipes! I feel like I should be covering my head and dodging whatever missiles my Democratic friends can lob at me. Those who aren’t throwing things will be nose to nose in an effort to explain just what horrors will befall with this venture into business-run social services.

This is what I understand the concerns to be, not in any order of priority.

For-profit business is in it to make money therefore they will keep their eye on the bottom line and not on taking care of our most vulnerable citizens.

We the people are the government and therefore we should have a say over public endeavors such as schools and social services, not to mention our state roads. We give this authority away when we contract with private companies to provide these services.

Privatization could be a gold mine for selected companies. There is a fear that it will invite corruption of the Halliburton nature.

At a conference last week the word was that Texas who has a privatized food stamp program is in trouble. Something seems to have gone awry and they may lose their federal funding. Remember, while all food stamp dollars are federal, administration of the program is half federal and half state. If you don’t follow federal rules, you could lose federal funding for administration of the program – a huge loss for a state.

Some people are concerned that privatization will set incentives for employees that could cause them to declare eligible people ineligible for services.

Even with these concerns about privatization, there seem to be more people upset with the process. They have my full agreement on that. This is a huge transformation and we the people seem to have been left out of the opinion gathering. For more on concerns, check out the Indiana Housing and Homelessness Coalition Web site at www.ichhi.org.

The two players vying for the billion dollar, ten year contract are Accenture LLP who is running the program in Texas and IBM ACS with its own problems doing the same in Georgia.

FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob previously worked for ACS. Perhaps for this reason, Governor Mitch Daniels will make the final decision in awarding the contract.

Contrary to the information floating around in my world, the contract will not be signed July 5th. I got this info from FSSA’s communication director, Dennis Rosebrough. Dennis says the governor has appointed a team to look at what the contract should encompass.

Perhaps sometime in mid-July there will be a public hearing. According to Dennis, the State is in no hurry, “we want to get it right”. Check the FSSA web site at www.in.gov/fssa for the date or watch for a press release.

The public hearing on the contract is required under Indiana’s procurement code. A minimum of seven days before the hearing, the contract will be released for public review. Comments from the hearings will be looked at and analyzed and could make the difference as to when the contract is signed. There is no set date to sign the contract after public input.

I had a long conversation with Dennis this week. He assures me of the following: FSSA spent a year talking with groups of all kinds throughout the State; the problem in Texas had to do with implementing a new computer system at the same time as privatization; the government will build into the contract measurable standards that they will oversee; and, the contracting company will do the intake while FSSA employees will decide eligibility.

Dennis’ bottom line was that FSSA’s first concern is for the client. “We want to make it easier and simpler for people to access these services.”

If you have concerns about this process, I recommend that you contact Dennis at FSSA. His direct line is 317-232-1149. You can e-mail to: dennis.rosebrough@fssa.in.gov; or mail to Dennis Rosebrough, 402 W. Washington Street, Room W461, Indianapolis, IN 46204-2787.

My recommendation to Dennis is to seriously and respectfully consider the concerns being voiced by dissenting groups. Politics aside, it makes sense to listen carefully to differing opinions when so much is at stake.

Lois Rockhill is executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. She can be reached at lrockhill@curehunger.org.







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