Outsourcing update: Discontented legislators, JLL satisfaction survey questioned, etc

Some state legislators are not satisfied with Department of General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby’s response to their request for an economic impact statement on the impact of a new contract for outsourcing management of more state buildings — or with Jones Lang LaSalle’s performance under its current, more limited contract. So  reports the Nashville Post in reviewing the status of Gov. Bill Haslam’s privatization efforts.

An excerpt:

Oglesby wrote, “[T]he State will save an estimated $155,516,942.12 in facilities management costs over the next ten years … making the Contract the least-cost method for managing facilities. Obviously, if more Authorized Entities participate, the savings would likely be even greater.”

But the problem with that letter, legislators say, is that it doesn’t actually provide any numbers on the estimated impact of outsourcing on their specific districts — which was the entire point of requesting an economic impact statement. (The letter also includes KraftCPAs’ economic justification of the plan from last year.)

Tennessee code allows any legislator to request a state agency “justify a proposed action by preparing an economic impact statement using professionally accepted methodology, with quantification of data to the extent practicable, giving effect to both short-term and long-term consequences.” The statement “shall include” several pieces of information, notably, “A determination of the effect of the action on the cost of living in the geographical area in which the action would occur,” and, “A determination of the effect of the action on employment in the geographical area in which the action would occur.”

The letter Oglesby sent to legislators who requested statements is exactly the same for all — there is no estimated geographical impact listed for any district. (Note: The Post has posted text of the letter HERE.)

“It is not yet possible to determine the economic impact of this contract on any district or other geographical area since we do not have detailed information about which institutions and facilities in a specific district would be participating in the contract,” Roberson said in response to questions about whether Oglesby’s letter actually fulfills the conditions set out in the law.

But that’s not good enough, said Nashville Democrat Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a vocal critic of outsourcing.

“Despite repeated requests, we have yet to receive any reliable proof of a benefit to taxpayers,” Clemmons said. “This generic response we received from the administration is insulting. It is entirely devoid of sufficient information one would expect from a competent administration with nothing to hide.”

Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) said the lack of information raises more questions than it answers.

“Don’t you think that’s a little bit irresponsible?” Bowling said of the lack of district-specific information. “That’s your fiduciary responsibility to the state of Tennessee to figure that out beforehand. You don’t wait until that university decides to opt in and then figure out the economic impact.”

…The letter also lists “Improved Facilities Management” as one of the agency’s top justifications for outsourcing.

“The ultimate measure of performance is customer satisfaction, which improved to an astonishing degree once the 2013 facilities management contract was implemented: in December 2016, the facilities managed under the 2013 contract had 98% customer satisfaction, up from 62% in July 2013 when that contract began,” Oglesby wrote. “Given that the Contractor is a worldwide expert and the Contract ties compensation to meeting performance standards, we expect to see similar improvement for the facilities that participate in the Contract.”

Legislative Plaza is one of the buildings serviced under the current JLL facilities management contract, and complaints about poor maintenance and cleaning are rife. The building is set to be vacated at the end of the year, which would necessarily limit major repairs, but Bowling said that it took a month a repeated calls to get her office vacuumed, when prior to outsourcing, it was vacuumed weekly. Her experience squares with what staffers from both parties describe as a decline in service under JLL — burnt-out lightbulbs that aren’t replaced, filthy trash cans that are not cleaned, surfaces that are not wiped down.

“The desks in the Senate were not dusted for over a year,” Bowling said. “The layer of dust on that surface was unbelievable, it was so thick.”

The constant complaints don’t match up with the high satisfaction percentages, and it turns out there’s a good reason for that — the numbers aren’t as representative as they could be.

If a state employee files a maintenance request, he or she will receive an email after the work order is completed with a link to an online satisfaction survey. For the 12-month period ending March 31, only 10 to 15 percent of people even responded to the survey — that’s where the 98 percent satisfaction figure comes from. And those surveys are only provided when a specific employee reports a specific problem — they don’t go out to everyone asking how clean the bathroom is regularly or how frequently the trash gets emptied. Surveys also aren’t generated when a JLL employee enters the work order.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG
Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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