CONTRIBUTORS

Why the Legislature should cancel the Alexander Group contract

Posted Feb. 26, 2014, at 12:42 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 26, 2014, at 4:43 p.m.
Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston
Carter F. McCall
Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston
Rep. Dick Farnsworth, D-Portland
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Rep. Dick Farnsworth, D-Portland

The Alexander Group Contract should be canceled because it is a waste of taxpayer dollars when Maine doesn’t have a penny to spare. We understand but disagree with a recent Bangor Daily News editorial published on Feb. 21, “ It’s DHHS’ decision, not the Legislature’s, to cancel Alexander’s Medicaid contract.

In most circumstances, we would agree that the Legislature should not overstep its bounds when it comes to the contracts awarded by the executive branch. However, on Gov. Paul LePage’s watch, the Department of Health and Human Services has been put on a path of self destruction. The mismanagement and incompetence has hurt the people of Maine.

The Alexander Group contract is not the first one the LePage administration has bungled. The failed MaineCare rides contract debacle for transportation services left patients stranded, missing doctor’s appointments for dialysis and critical treatments. Compounding the problem, the administration failed to ensure that one of the contractors had a “performance bond,” or insurance policy, making it harder to get our money back.

The chronic mismanagement at DHHS has left us with a constant budget shortfall, a loss in certification and federal funding for the Riverview Psychiatric Center, and a Maine Center for Disease Control document-shredding scandal.

We simply don’t have any confidence that the governor will make the right choice to cancel the contract despite its serious flaws. As the editorial points out, the Alexander Group report is a “ political document disguised as impartial analysis created at taxpayers’ expense.”

The Alexander Group was given a $1 million no-bid contract despite having no unique skills that would allow the administration to waive competitive bidding rules. The only qualification the Alexander Group has is that it shares the governor’s political views.

The group was hired by LePage to study the state’s safety net programs and Medicaid expansion. The first report from the consulting firm was a month late and contained serious flaws and a $575 million accounting error. The firm’s director, Gary Alexander, served as the director of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, where his mismanagement and failed policies cost Pennsylvania taxpayers $7 million and resulted in 89,000 children losing health care.

It’s hard for us to trust the administration to make the right choice, since it hasn’t from the start.

LePage claims to be a savvy turn-around specialist from the business world, but what CEO would keep a $1-million contract with a company that does such shoddy work? And what CEO would select a contractor with such a poor track record?

Despite all of these facts, only a few weeks ago on Feb. 7, the administration made yet another payment of $193,360 to the Alexander Group, bringing total taxpayer dollars spent on the failed contract to $378,000 total. To our knowledge, there have been no new reports or deliverables.

If we don’t step in, the contract is expected to cost taxpayers $1 million. Worst of all, this money was funneled from state and federal dollars designated to help struggling families who are forced to turn to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

We know that it might seem like the Legislature is overstepping its bounds by trying to cancel the contract, but we just can’t sit idly by while the governor takes money from dollars meant to feed hungry families. It’s plain wrong.

Rep. Dick Farnsworth, D-Portland, and Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, both chair the Health and Human Services Committee.

 

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