Outsourcing Responsibility

Sometimes, I wonder why we bother to elect chief executives, since an increasing number of them are clearly uninterested in that boring activity called…what was it? oh yes…governing. Public administration. Management.

Yesterday’s news highlighted the latest in a series of missteps (a nicer word than “fuck ups”) by the Pence Administration. (Actually, I believe this one dates back to Daniels’ time.)

State officials threatened Wednesday to find a private developer in default of its contract for building a 21-mile section of the Interstate 69 extension in central Indiana after a major subcontractor stopped work over lack of payment.

The Indiana Finance Authority has issued a notice of non-performance to I-69 Development Partners LLC for the project upgrading the current Indiana 37 route between Bloomington and Martinsville.

According to bids submitted for the project in 2013, I-69 Development Partners consists of OHL Concesiones of Madrid, Star America Fund LLC of Roslyn, New York, and UIF GP LLC of Delaware.

The dispute comes after Crider & Crider Inc., the contractor responsible for the project’s earth-moving operations, halted work this week.

For the past several decades, public officials–especially but certainly not exclusively Republican elected officials–have had a love affair with so-called “privatization.” I say “so-called,” because genuine privatization involves government’s withdrawal from a given activity (Margaret Thatcher selling off steel mills to the private sector, for example.) In the U.S., what is usually called privatization is actually outsourcing–the practice of choosing a for-profit or nonprofit surrogate to manage a job or provide a service on behalf of a government agency.

I have written extensively about the issues involved in outsourcing, and I’m not inclined to belabor the issue here. Suffice it to say that agencies of government may contract with private entities to provide government services, but they cannot contract away their ultimate responsibility for seeing to it that the project or service is appropriately managed or delivered.

When government hires a contractor to perform a service–in this case, to build a road–it still has the obligation to supervise that contractor’s performance. Effective and competent outsourcing requires that the relevant government agency retain sufficient capacity to manage and monitor the contractor.

Some government functions, of course, simply should not be outsourced. (Private prisons come to mind.) Reasonable people can argue about the wisdom of contracting with private developers to manage the building of roads, but those reasonable people will usually agree that the state retains an obligation to supervise and control its contractors, who are, after all, being paid with tax dollars.

In this case, clearly, that supervision was lacking. And we all know who pays the price when government fails to discharge its most basic responsibilities, one of which is infrastructure:

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said many people are frustrated with the traffic delays on Indiana 37 caused by I-69 construction and that he’s not been able to get answers from state officials or the developer.

“People don’t understand why they’re driving through miles and miles of traffic barrels and seeing little, if anything, getting done,” he said.

About 95 miles of the I-69 extension have opened since 2012 between Evansville and Bloomington through southwestern Indiana. The total cost of the I-69 extension is estimated at $3 billion, but the cost of the final leg from Martinsville to Interstate 465 has not been determined.

When that cost is determined, we all know who will pay it.


  1. Sheila:

    “Yesterday’s news highlighted the latest in a series of missteps (a nicer word than “fuck ups”)”

    Maybe our biggest communication problem is that we’re being a little too nice. What do you think?

    I say, “Fuck’em before it’s too late.” Early voting in the presidential election starts in two weeks in some states.

  2. What do Libertarians say? What did Grover Norquist say? Corporations want the work but with no regulations. Just give us the money, Mrs. Elected Official and we’ll return some to your bank account, with thanks. Except when it becomes a problem we’ll renig on the deal.

  3. Wayne,

    I agree with you. Let’s just simplify it.

    Integrity is not an issue in the presidential race. Neither candidate has it. The only real issue is SANITY vs. INSANITY. That’s all we’re left with. As they say, “we’re in the “END TIMES.”

    It’s time for the psychiatry to come to the forefront. The Koch Brothers now see that. They’ve turned to the Frankfurt School for their strategy. Let’s beat’em to the punch.

    My advice is: “Throw the FUCKING political consultants and pollsters out along with the media.” Who needs them?

  4. Marv Kramer, I agree the bums should be thrown out. How? Even if we accomplished it, they’d return. It’s like throw them out and put me in. I’ll do the right thing. You and me, Marv.

  5. Wayne,

    “I agree the bums should be thrown out. How? Even if we accomplished it, they’d return. It’s like throw them out and put me in.”

    It’s now or never to STAND UP AGAINST[INSANE] POWER.

    We have no other choice than to destroy the system BEHIND THE THRONE. It’s now vulnerable to a TOTAL CASCADE. It’s doable. It’s our last chance before FUTURCIDE. Then it will be all over.

  6. We have a long history of cost over-runs on public projects. Contractors know they can go back to the well time and time again, because the public entity that hired them needs to have the project completed. In this instance, the state will sit down to negotiate with the general contractor and millions more will pass to the contractor before the road gets finished. Additionally, some of those involved in the negotiations on the state’s side will find future employment with the contractors. Nice work, if you can get it.

  7. I sometimes wonder why we blame “government”, when we, as voters, are ultimately responsible for the effectiveness of “governing”. We get what we allow. The cartoon character Pogo was right…..We have met the enemy, and he is us.

  8. Wayne,

    As I have mentioned before on this blog, the SYSTEM that empowers the Koch Brothers et al was “seeded” by a group of lectures that I presented in 1969. The Koch Brothers might be in control of America. However, I would strongly suggest they are not in control of me, at least not at 8:53 A.M. on September 8, 2016.

  9. When I read about this debacle yesterday I immediately thought “Oh yes, let’s hire private contractors and give them our money without any oversight”. Thanks Daniels and Pence – how much more is this one going to cost us and what other planned and budgeted infrastructure projects will not be undertaken because that money will be spent on this mess?

  10. Nancy,

    “I immediately thought “Oh yes, let’s hire private contractors and give them our money without any oversight.”

    It’s called for a better word: FINANCIAL ANARCHY. It’s a lasting bequeath to America by Ronald Reagan. Let’s give him all the credit that he deserves. It’s long overdue.

  11. Bill,

    We have to do more than vote. We have to speak out individually in theTONE that is allowed on this blog. That is what democracy is all about.

    tone n. [<Gr. teinein, to stretch] 1. a vocal or musical sound, or its quality as to pitch, intensity, etc. 2. a manner of expression showing a certain attitude [a friendly tone] 3. style, character, spirit, etc. 4. elegance vt. toned, ton'ing to give a tone to—tone down (or up) to give a less (or more) intense tone to—tone'less adj.
    ~Webster's New World Dictionary

  12. Based on my recollection from previous IndyStar accounts on INDOT, it’s the one department which repeatedly sees ethical violations caused by an INDOT employee who awards a sizable contract to a contractor, and then goes to work for said contractor. I suspect for every case we hear about, there are a handful we don’t hear/read about.

    As with all media in this country, they primarily focus on the government, yet rarely focus too much on the contractors, lobbyists, donors to political campaigns.

    In East Central Indiana, we saw a “contractor” receive a substantial contract to underwrite a feasibility study for damming up White River in Anderson, Indiana. It was trash.

    Yet, when digging deeper, the engineer who was awarded the contract to put together the study, also was a contributor to the campaign of Governor Mike Pence and several other republican lawmakers – “pay-to-play”.

    It’s called crony capitalism – INDOT is famous for it, and so is our BMV. Will Holcomb (R) or Gregg (D) make any changes?

    Not if they want campaign donations.

  13. There are good businesses and bad, good government and bad.

    Unfortunately bad business people tend to hang around bad government people and support their re-election.

    We have think for ourselves and hire and fire based on performance not promises.

  14. You can’t change people. This is one area where there really is no difference between the parties. People will take what is not theirs when they can get away with it. Honest folks are a whole lot less “honest” than we would like to admit. The only way to prevent it is to lock the door. Keep the “honest” folks honest. Then maybe install a booby trap or two to kill off the hard core crooks. All of this involves well known and researched management practices known as management control systems, and it is all pretty elementary and would not cost a lot of money to implement. But of course this is a democracy, and what this would require is leadership, and generally speaking the voters just aren’t smart enough to elect real leaders — we just get lucky once every few decades. So you might say that the people deserve to have their pockets picked, and in my opinion you would be right. If I were younger, knowing what I know now, I might just choose to go into pocket picking as a career.

  15. One of the now more urgent problems that Hillary’s government must take on is life long learning. What scientists call the “half life” of knowledge is now way less than an average lifetime.

    So much to learn now.

  16. Interesting comment: “ITT Tech’s situation is due in part to the Obama administration’s over-regulation, which is sadly killing jobs nationwide,” Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said.

    When “private industry” fails blame Obama, government regulations, or Unions. As so many have noticed the line between the government and private industry has blurred with Crony-Capitalism and it’s brother in arms privatization.

    One requirement of Leadership is over sight. Over sight is sadly lacking by government officials as they are infected by Crony Capitalism. Lobbyists and campaign contributors make certain the scales are tipped in their favor. Politicians who are addicted to campaign contributions appoint the regulators. As we have seen the regulators often use the revolving door between private industry and government.

  17. INDOT has been a “pay to play” enterprise for decades. A governor could neglect to appoint his political allies to INDOT management positions and try legitimate governance, but that is probably a scary proposition, given INDOT history. The agency may not be able to function without being able to offer contracts in exchange for political donations. There may not even be any qualified contractors who can compete head-to-head without political contributions.

  18. Politicians and government agencies do not build roads; private contractors do, and when the State of Indiana is a deadbeat in not paying its bills which results in great inconvenience to its citizens who are providing the wherewithal for such payment, there is plainly a situation where the head bone is not connected to the back bone. Government is not only not doing what it should do in supervising the work and watching over for taxpayers’ interests, it won’t even cut the checks for work it has contracted to have done, and all the while Pence is not even in town because he is out on the hustings trying to elect a bag of wind to the Oval Office with access to state secrets and the atomic button. So now the state is a deadbeat and its leader is missing in action? Is there such a thing as governor recall in absentia? When does the revolution start?

  19. The argument over the “necessity”, or lack thereof, for I-69 construction was going on during the Hudnut administration. The office of the CFO for Circle Centre Mall was located in the DMD office and she and I talked about it as it raged. She was from Evanville, maintained a home there, her children and grandchildren lived there so there were frequent trips between Indy and Evansville by the entire family. Her daughter was an attorney who was involved in the contract to bring the U.S. Post Office Hub to Indianapolis International Airport. She also made frequent trips to and from. They saw no need to spend millions of tax dollars to shorten the trip time between Indianapolis and Evansville by 20 minutes (at the outside) which was one reason given for constructing I-69. She and I talked of the true reason behind the “need” for that particular interstate; private contractors, cronyism and our tax dollars.

    That was 24 years ago; the road isn’t completed yet, contractors not getting paid, arguments continue to rage and Pence is holding fast to the surplus in the state budget. Sigh; sometimes I get so tired!

  20. Other than JoAnn, there are few who realize the significance of ‘The Lady Chablis’ death yesterday.

  21. BSH; “The Lady Chablis” brought transgenders to the forefront with style, verve and hilarity. She made the name “Mr. T” famous again (remember Mr. T in “The A Team”) and gave it new meaning. She drew crowds in the Clearwater, Florida area when she was looking for a home. She would have been an excellent spokesperson for LGBTQs today; so sorry she is gone, and too young.

  22. JoAnn,

    I hope you understand I am not attacking you. When It comes to standing up in a positive way for what a person stands for, in my mind there is no one who I admire more than you.

    My problem is with the partnership between the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. While it was sending out its “Intelligence Report” on the activities of white supremacy movements and “Teaching Tolerance” to school children, it has also been actively silencing the voices of their potential competition who were in a position to be more effective in protecting DEMOCRACY than they were in a position to do. And who more importantly, would have cut in on the millions of dollars they have been raising in the progressive and Jewish communities. Has the big board reached $200,000.000 by now?

    I applaud the SPLC and the ADL for their competitive and marketing skills, but I also look upon them, as you can tell, with DISGUST like many others do. They knowingly let the “cat out of the bag” and we are all, especially AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, is suffering greatly from it. That’s all.

    dis-gust’ (-gust’) n. [< DIS + L gustus, a taste] a sickening dislike—vt. to cause to feel disgust—dis-gust'ed adj. —dis-gust'ing adj.
    `Webster's New World Ditionary

  23. Marv; OK, I will accept this as not attacking ME. Your attack is, as always, against SPLC and ACLU but you recognize a few of the positive actions they have taken – albeit fewer than the negative actions you deplore frequently.

    I have two friends who were totally gung-ho for Barack Obama, including sending some big bucks. When he did not/could not fulfill all of THEIR expectations, they turned totally against him and do not understand my continuing support for what he as done. One is now fully supporting Jill Stein and was furious because I didn’t join her; my friend’s comments regarding this current presidential election rivaled your’s regarding SPLC and ACLU in temperament. I don’t remember mentioning the ACLU; I do respond to some of their surveys but do not support them nor am I a dues paying member. I am however a member of SPLC; have been since 2012 when I decided to “put my money where my mouth is”.

    We reached a fork in our road – again; this happens between the best of friends, we will converge again further down the road. I do not disparage you for your anti-SPLC and ACLU beliefs; I simply disagree with your “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” conclusions. You have your reasons for lack of support and I have my reasons for the options I do support. What a boring world this would be if we all thought exactly alike. Regarding your DISGUST; my Aunt Vicky loves to eat snails, I find that totally DISGUSTING but allow her the freedom of that option from the menu.

  24. JoAnn,

    You got things mixed up. You’re not even listening to me. And you’re never going to. I’m not against the ACLU, I’m against the ADL which is a Jewish organization supposedly fighting anti-Semitism in the U.S. but in reality, is only representing the interests of the State of Israel in total disregard of the American Jewish community and to the detriment of all of us. The SPLC is in partnership with the ADL not the ACLU which Sheila had once been the head representative in Indiana if I’m not mistaken. You’ll fight me to the end. I need to go somewhere else. I’m tired of fighting you on this issue. It’s too important.

  25. Ooops; wrong acronym, Marv. Mea a great big culpa! In this instance. I do know what and where Aleppo is and that it is NOT an acronym;-)

  26. I first saw eff ewe see kay (F U C K ) being chalked on a Cincinnati sidewalk by a boy no bigger than I at five-years-old in 1948, looking out from the backseat of our car, on the way to see Susie, the Gorilla. My 10-year-old sister said she would tell me what it meant when we got home. There she showed me a medical textbook my dad, mom, uncle were working on to get proofed after translation — for income. Indiana school administrators now use yellow sheets to send home LANGUAGE (tonge you age) referrals for minors in public places, including LEVEL III notices. So misstep is misstep, like misspell. TO FUCK is obscene but TO SWEAR is divine sometimes. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-delightful-perversity-of-quebecs-catholic-swears?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=keywee&kwp_0= It’s ALL non-prophet.

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