Last week in this space we praised the joint effort that led to Arkansas landing Shandong Sun Paper plant. This week we praise the joint effort — even if neither coordinated nor fully intentional — of local media outlets to shed light on a puzzling situation involving the award of a $159 million state contract to an Indiana company.
KUAR, Little Rock’s public radio affiliate, reported Aug. 15 that the Arkansas Division of Youth Services is planning to outsource services for the state’s juvenile treatment centers and lockups to Youth Opportunity Investments LLC of Indiana and stop using Arkansas-based providers, even while increasing its per-bed, per-day rate for juvenile offenders by 58 percent, from $147 a day to $232.
This is an Opinion
On Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that two of the Arkansas providers planned to protest the Youth Services decision. Responses to Freedom of Information Act requests to the Office of State Procurement and to the Department of Human Services showed that the Indiana company scored the highest on a bid evaluation. Curiously, however, “no documents exist that explain how evaluators arrived at the total technical score on a list of categories and points possible for each category, as defined in the state’s request for proposals,” the paper said.
“I’m a little perplexed about it because all of our programs are all accredited, all the DYS audits have been good, the Health Department audits have been good,” Jerry Walsh, chief executive of South Arkansas Youth Services, told the D-G. “They throw in all that money — it’s unbelievable.”
We’re looking to the D-G and KUAR to continue reporting on the state’s plans to pay more money to an out-of-state company to provide the same services previously provided by Arkansas entities. The work of these locally owned outlets (the D-G privately owned, KUAR publicly owned) again reminds us of their essential role in overseeing governmental actions and spending.