Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category

Metro’s share of King County’s big tort payouts spikes in Q3

by Matt Rosenberg November 8th, 2012

King County Metro Transit was responsible for 71 percent of third quarter 2012 large negligence claim settlements paid by the county, according to a newly issued report. Metro’s share of those payouts is up from 50 percent for the first two quarters of the year, and just more than one-quarter of the total last year. A county ordinance requires quarterly online disclosure of large tort settlements, but that hasn’t happened and there’s no related public database. The data, when issued, can be found through a somewhat obscure county information portal including links to legislation and reports.

As it does every quarter of the year, King County this summer settled a series of what it classifies as major negligence, or tort, claims – those of $100,000 or more. The county is self-insured and pays all claims from a special fund of its own, except those over $7.5 million, for which it has outside insurance. County tort payouts in the third quarter of this year totaled more than $1.4 million dollars. Exactly $1 million or 71 percent of that amount stemmed from mishaps involving the county’s Metro bus system, according to a new Q1 through Q3 2012 tort payouts report to the King County Council from Jennifer Hills, the Director of the Office of Risk Management. The 71 percent share for Metro of the county’s large negligence claim payouts in Q3 compares to 50 percent for Metro in the first two quarters of the year combined; versus just more than one quarter of the county total for Metro in 2011; and nearly two-thirds in 2010, as we reported earlier this year.

Doing biz with Washington State too tricky, audit says

by John Stang September 18th, 2012

Getting permits and licenses from Washington’s government is nowhere as simple as it could be, according to a recent Washington State performance audit. A longtime state government goal has been to allow people and businesses who must comply with regulations to go to central Web sites to get all the information they need to meet their legal obligations under the law. That goal is still a long way away. “Doing business in Washington today means sifting through a complex maze of state and local laws and regulations. At the state level alone, someone wanting to open a small convenience store, with a gas pump for example, would have to get regulatory approval from up to a dozen different agencies, in addition to approvals from local jurisdictions. … The challenge is especially difficult for small businesses, usually lacking the resources that enable larger companies to hire attorneys and other specialists to help them comply. When businesses fail to fully comply with regulations, they face fines and penalties,” the audit report said.

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.”

WA audit: fiscally, City of Sunnyside skating on thin ice

by John Stang July 26th, 2012

The City of Sunnyside in Yakima County improperly juggled its internal funds in the past two years, so its general fund landed in the red just five months into 2012, according to a state audit report released this week. That red ink in the general fund totaled $613,516 as of May 31, although the city has slightly more than $1 million in cash reserves to bail it out. But this is the first time – at least in recent years – that Sunnyside’s general fund is in negative territory and the cash reserves will have to be used, and it’s no mere technicality. The report from the office of State Auditor Brian Sonntag says, “The city is at risk of not being able to meet financial obligations or maintain services at current levels. This could result in the city needing to take out bank loans or to find alternate funding sources, which could be an additional cost to its ratepayers and taxpayers.”

Senate panel raps Boeing over bogus P8-A test model part

by Matt Rosenberg June 10th, 2012

A U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee report sharply critiques Boeing Company for failing to notify the U.S Navy for 17 months after it issued its own internal “suspect discrepancy report” that a key component in an ice detection system to be used on the first P8-A Poseidon “submarine killer” plane test model likely contained “reworked parts” that were “unacceptable for use.” The Navy has committed to take delivery of 117 P8-As from Boeing, with 13 slated for the contract’s first phase. The enhanced 737 is manufactured at Boeing’s Renton, Wash. plant. As the Puget Sound Business Journal reported, the first operational model was delivered in March of this year, after six test models that won’t see battle action. The committee report noted there were suspected false parts originally included on the five other P8-A test models as well.

It was the first P8-A flight test model’s troubled history that raised the hackles of the Senate committee, which stressed in the report that suspected counterfeit parts are a scourge on the U.S. defense supply chain. Investigators found about 1,800 such cases in 2009 and 2010, and only 271 reported to a related and recommended government-industry data exchange program. The total number of suspect parts exceeded one million. “Unvetted independent distributors” primarily in China are the main source of the suspect parts, and the defense industry “routinely” fails to report their use to the government, according to the report.

Three subcontractors and a shady Hong Kong supplier
The supply chain for the questionable part on the P8-A flight test model involved three subcontractors plus a shady Hong Kong supplier, and false assurances of close inspection. There was a “significant reliability risk” involving increased likelihood of malfunction of the ice detection system in the P8-A test jet that Boeing had delivered to the Navy, and likewise for eight commercial 737s delivered to foreign airlines with the same problematic part, the report said. The committee concluded that by using so-called “reconditioned” or “remanufactured” supplies without permission from the Navy, Boeing violated federal acquisition regulation 52.211-5 and the Navy’s Aerospace Standard 9100.

WA: one in five social programs checked don’t pencil out

by Matt Rosenberg April 17th, 2012

A new report from the Washington legislature’s non-partisan policy analysis unit, the Washington State Institute For Public Policy, finds that of 98 programs recently reviewed for what researchers liken to an investment advisor’s “buy-sell” list, 79 pass muster financially, with measured per-participant financial benefits to the state which exceed costs; but 19 do not. Another 45 which are identified, haven’t been recently evaluated for cost effectiveness, the report says. Of the new results in the April 2012 report – titled “Return On Investment: Evidence-Based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes” – the so-called “net present value” (benefits to the state per participant minus costs) was highest for a series of juvenile justice and adult criminal justice programs, and lowest for a sub-group of child and teen prevention and preK-12 education programs including Early Head Start and Even Start.

UW Dental School should ban free samples, prof urges

by Matt Rosenberg October 28th, 2011

Dental schools including that of the University of Washington should seriously consider banning free drug and product samples due to ethical, medical, consumer and educational considerations, says UW Professor of Dentistry Philippe Hujoel after completing a study just published in The Journal of Dental Education. The study found that a group of UW dental students appeared to suffer compromised medical judgement as a result of being exposed to free samples of a high-priced “sensitizing” toothpaste.