Eyes Wide Shut: When Governments Outsource with No Accountability

by Pablo Ros  |  January 16, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut: When Governments Outsource with No Accountability

Imagine that you hire a home improvement company to remodel your home. Would you sign on the dotted line and take out your checkbook unless it was absolutely clear to both you and the contractor what the work entailed and how much it would cost?

Unfortunately, that’s what many states and localities do, sign contracts with private companies and commit millions in taxpayer money without setting clear expectations of the contractor regarding the work involved and the time frame for completion.

Examples abound, according to a new report from In the Public Interest, a comprehensive resource center on privatization and responsible contracting.

“Problems with contract oversight are pervasive,” the report states. “These problems occur in cities and states across the country and across all sectors of government, including health and human services, criminal justice, information technology, education, public works, and more.”

The authors of the report identify five problems with contract oversight and issue recommendations for fixing them. The recommendations include:

• Incorporate oversight costs into any decision to outsource.

• Include clear performance standards and penalties for noncompliance in the request for proposals and contract.

• Provide adequate resources, including staff, training and funding, to oversee every contract.

• Do not outsource contract oversight.

The best bang for a taxpayer’s buck is still in the public sector, where dedicated public workers serve their communities with pride. But if a local or state government decides it must outsource, then the contracting must be done responsibly. This report offers useful guidelines for outsourcing in a responsible way.

Read the full report here.  

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