Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No One Could Have Anticipated This! No, Really!

The Davidson County Election Commission burglary has had repercussions:
A private security firm didn't cover a vulnerable Nashville government building on Saturdays for months — but did send the city a bill for its services, according to a government audit.

Gosh, where have we heard that one before? Oh yeah, here:

A Halliburton subsidiary agreed to pay the government $8 million to resolve accusations of overbilling related to the firm's work for the Army in the Balkans, the Justice Department said yesterday.

And here:

U.S. Protection and Investigations, a private security firm working for the State Department in Afghanistan, “is accused of overbilling the U.S. government by charging for nonexistent employees and vehicles.” The overbilling “could add up to millions of dollars,” an American security official with close ties to the company told the AP.

And here:

The federal government is investigating possible price gouging and corruption by food companies that supply meals to U.S. troops in Iraq. Marketplace's John Dimsdale talks to Alex Cohen about the deals made between the Pentagon's key vendor and firms, including Perdue Farms and Sara Lee.

We still haven’t learned the lesson:

Halliburton Co. repeatedly overcharged the government and exhibited "profound systemic problems" under a $1.2 billion contract to restore oil services in Iraq, according to internal government documents released yesterday by one of the company's fiercest critics.

And here’s an oldie but a doozey, with a local angle:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - HCA Inc. (formerly known as Columbia/HCA and HCA - The Healthcare Company) has agreed to pay the United States $631 million in civil penalties and damages arising from false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs, the Justice Department announced today.

This settlement marks the conclusion of the most comprehensive health care fraud investigation ever undertaken by the Justice Department, working with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense, the Office of Personnel Management and the states. The settlement announced today resolves HCA's civil liability for false claims resulting from a variety of allegedly unlawful practices, including cost report fraud and the payment of kickbacks to physicians.

Want more? No?

Look, I’m as big a fan of private enterprise as the next person, but can we dispense with the notion that profit-oriented private companies can somehow do government work better, cheaper, more honestly, or more efficiently than the government can? Their goal is to make a profit. I’m not saying there aren’t circumstances where hiring a private contractor doesn't makes sense, but this whole trend under the Bush Administration of privatizing the government is costing taxpayers billions of dollars in “waste, fraud and abuse.” The only folks who come out winners in these relationships are the contractors themselves.

Conservatives act like privatization is some kind of magic wand that will instantly save taxpayers money, remove red tape and do all sorts of other shiny, sparkly, wonderful things. This is bunk. It's just as wasteful as letting government do these jobs, and often there's less transparency and accountability. I mean, my God, why the hell are we still doing business with Halliburton? Oh, right. Forget I asked.

And now this privatization trend has trickled down to state and local governments--surprise surprise--so has the fraud, abuse and waste.

No one could have anticipated that!