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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
Letter of the Day

Procedures needed to verify what taxpayers are paying for

Published:

Hillsborough County’s failure in the homeless housing program shows that program compliance procedures were either not in place or not followed. Why? Was it a budget shortage in funding positions so inspections could be made? Or was it that no compliance procedures were set up? Maybe one day we’ll learn the answers to those questions, but they make me question all similar programs where taxpayer dollars are spent but no one knows what the money is buying.

Governments have a fiduciary responsibility to spend our money wisely, but unless it’s a physical product, there seems to be no way to determine the quality of the services we are paying for. Or if procedures are in place, they aren’t being followed. Take the homeless housing scandal. Sure, they were cutting checks, but what were we getting? Subdivided trailers in a parking lot.

State and federal programs have the same problems. The Department of Corrections paid for a halfway house that housed/rehabbed/trained inmates on work release. It had to be closed due to poor procedures and failure to supervise.

We need procedures to verify whether we are getting what we are paying for.

Hillsborough County’s administration’s solutions for the homeless recovery scandal has been to turn to nonprofits to ask whether they would consider taking over the program. How could they do it cheaper? What nonprofit is going to turn away government dollars when past experience shows there will be inadequate contract monitoring? If they provide substandard services, who would know? No one seems to be asking those served or inspecting.

Governments chafe when experts claim government should be run more like a business, but contract monitoring is an area where it absolutely applies. All government programs should be implemented with results measurements to determine whether desired outcomes are being achieved. Right now, it seems that as long as they spend budgeted dollars, and take a list of names, they consider they have met program objectives. That is not the metric by which they should be judging success. Success should be measured by actually providing safe housing, rehabilitating ex-convicts, or finding veterans jobs.

Lauren Shiner

Tampa

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