Monday, August 11, 2008

Privatization - Councilor Jackie Nytes Gets One Right

Sunday's Indianapolis Star discussed Mayor Ballard's idea regarding possibly privatizing services offered by the Mayor's Action Center.

As a Republican, I tend to believe competition in the provision of service is a good thing for consumers. However, as City County Councilor Jackie Nytes, one of the more thoughtful Democrat members of the council notes, for an outsourced contract to work there needs to be strong government oversight. Bingo.

Nytes' observation is particularly correct when it is the type of service provided outside of normal public scrutiny. For the past six months I've dealt with privatization of correction facilities, including privatized medical services for inmates.

There you have the triple whammy of a service provided outside of normal public scrutiny, an attitude of apathy if not hostility toward inmates, and lengthy contracts shielding the service providers from competition. The only protection, outside of litigation which is generally highly problematic due to prison adminstrative hurdles, is government oversight. And with the palms of elected officials often greased by campaign contributions, the urge to call the service provider onto the carpet for cutting corners and violating the contract just isn't there.

The shocking things I've seen from the services provided, or more accurately not provided, by these private correctional facilities lead me to believe privatized corrections just do not work. Public jails and prisons are almost always far better run than their private counterparts.

Now privatization of MAC might prove to be a different story. Regardless of whether it is a good idea, Councilor Nytes' comment regarding the need for good oversight is a suggestion Mayor Ballard should heed.


Jim said...

Ballard's sloganeering galvanized the electorate, but can he deliver the goods? I felt no compulsion to vote for either candidate.

In this morning's Star, the new city budget proposes a substantial increase for city police but cuts in courts and prisons. DUH! What good is it to arrest the bad guys and have them sit around in an expensive warehouse? Shouldn't it be the other way around-more for courts and prisons and less for police?
Great blog! Keep it up (?!?)
Jim Traub

Ken said...

Oversight is critical to government contract work. If the city finally understands this, maybe there is hope the state will figure it out too!