Collaboration in Civic Spheres

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Inspector General: Misuse, Sloth at Key EPA Facility

by Peggie Duggan June 14th, 2013

In an “Early Warning Report” the Office of the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency recommended to the agency it take immediate action on its largest warehouse. Parts of the EPA headquarters storage site had been converted into a workers’ playtime complex for contractor employees while other sections were markedly unsanitary and unsafe. The contractor, Apex Logistics, LLC, had been previously described by EPA as “uniquely qualified” to do warehouse management work though there’d been no on-site reviews at the 77,000 square foot HQ warehouse in Landover, Maryland since it was leased by the agency in 2007. Following a briefing last month from the OIG about conditions there, EPA moved quickly to take corrective steps.

Seattle Central’s Tougher “Occupy” Code Advances

by Matt Rosenberg March 20th, 2013

Under proposed new state regulations all-night vigils by off-campus groups would be allowed outside of Seattle Central Community College, but a no-camping proviso already enacted would stay in place and a series of other guidelines would be enacted around the exercise there of First Amendment-protected free speech rights. Non-college protest groups such as “Occupy Seattle” – whose wild and wooly days-long encampment on the college’s grounds in fall 2011 sparked conflict with the college and neighbors while inspiring declarations of support from faculty and students – would be subject to a registration clause. They’d have to comply with provisions to limit noise; clean-up; pay costs for any litter left and damages caused; and refrain from blocking students and faculty from using college facilities. There’s also a long list of what constitutes prohibited “camping,” as well as a ban on leaflets with obscene language or incitements to violence, and a strong suggestion such flyers include author or group contact information, to encourage accountability.

Puget Sound Partnership looks in mirror, not pleased

by Matt Rosenberg October 15th, 2012

State audits have critiqued the Puget Sound Partnership for lax management, and a federal watchdog group tied it to alleged ethical missteps by a powerful Washington Congressman. But in a newly-released bi-annual “State of the Sound” assessment, the organization appears to giving itself a bracing dose of “tough love.” A summary memo on the new report from the state agency spearheading efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound says that on six key indicators of success, progress toward 2020 goals isn’t occurring. Progress is mixed on another five, evident on two, and unclear on another eight because goals haven’t been set or data isn’t yet available. The trouble spots are marine water quality, cleanliness of swimming beaches, growth of eelgrass, and stock of Chinook salmon, herring and Orca whales. The memo was released quietly and online late last week by the Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination board as part of a document packet for its October 18 meeting in Shelton, Mason County. The full report was to be posted online later today at the partnership’s web site.

Auditor estimates $73 million in WA childcare overpayments

by Matt Rosenberg October 5th, 2012

Almost one in four federal and state dollars spent on Working Connections program child care subsidies in Washington state during Fiscal Year 2011 were overpayments, according to a new report from the office of Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag. State agencies in charge didn’t agree with the exact estimates but acknowledged that “the exiting system is not working as efficiently or effectively as we want it to or as it should.” They are to report to the legislature in December on contractor proposals for a new tracking system to improve accountability.

WA scores well in one aspect of Medicaid fraud detection

by John Stang September 7th, 2012

Washington state is batting almost 1,000 in due diligence checks of Medicaid applicants for financial eligibility, but needs to run checks on their vehicle ownership to ensure it is properly weeding out those whose net assets are too high to qualify for the program, according to a recent U.S. General Accountability Office report. The report by GAO, which performs program evaluations and related investigations at the request of members of Congress, looked at how thoroughly all 50 states and the District of Columbia vet their long-term Medicaid applicants for one sub-category of eligibility standards. The feds list 13 potential categories of assets that can be checked to ensure applicants are not fraudulently transferring them or failing to report them, so they don’t count toward Medicaid eligibility. A 2007 Medicaid fraud conviction of a woman in New Hampshire accented the risks. As of July, Washington was doing the necessary checking in 12 of those 13 categories; the exception being vehicle ownership. Idaho too verifies 12 categories, also not tackling vehicles, while Oregon verifies all 13 categories for its long-term Medicaid applicants. It is one of 20 states to do so.

Overall, though, the state could do significantly better in detecting Medicaid fraud, say legislators. As reported earlier at Public Data Ferret, upon passage last spring of a new law effective this July 1, to ratchet up Medicaid fraud penalties, Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent) blogged, “Experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures estimate the cost of Medicaid fraud accounts for 3 and 10 percent of total Medicaid expenditures. Washington spent $8.5 billion on Medicaid last year only to recover less than $20 million in fraud. At its most optimistic, the state’s recovery rate tops out at less than 1 percent.”

King County’s big tort claims: $37.3M in last 2.5 years

by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2012

Court verdicts or settlements of $100,000 or more in government negligence claims against King County from January 2010 through June 2012 have totaled $37.3 million and 40 percent of that has resulted from actions by transit employees at King County Metro, according to records obtained by Public Data Ferret. The large tort claim payouts by King County more than doubled from 2010 to 2011 but so far are occurring at a slower pace this year. In 2010, total large tort claims (over $100,000) were $10.3 million and $6.65 million or 64 percent were due to King County Metro transit operations. In 2011, large tort claims were $23.1 million and $6.32 million or 27 percent were tied to Metro transit. In 2012 through June, King County has paid out $3.85 million in negligence claims of $100,000 or more, with $1.92 million or 50 percent involving Metro transit.