by Don Washington on 2011/08/25
At a time when the City of Chicago is so strapped for cash it can’t afford to fully fund the education of our children why are we paying a corporation to look for $25 million dollars in possible savings? Yes, when you break an agreement to provide a 4% raise to teachers and slash $85 million dollars out of the school budget you cannot afford to fully fund the education of the city’s children. That’s what that means. At a time when Chicago cannot afford to fully fund any of its city services why is it hiring a corporation to look for $25 million dollars in possible savings? That’s right, when you’re a few thousand police officers shy, can’t fill potholes or abate rats effectively in every corner of the city and are going to have to hike rates on the CTA while closing overnight homeless shelters you are not fully funding city services. Now since neither Fran Speilman nor John Byrne could figure out that they should ask this question; it falls on ordinary citizens to do so and as an ordinary citizen I know this can’t be about saving money. If it were about saving money the Mayor would not be ignoring the $500 million in savings the Inspector General says are lurking in the Women/Minority Business Enterprise program. This is about something else. The only question is what is it about and the answer is privatization and the building of the Emanuel political machine.
WBEZ feted the Mayor and his Administration in a discussion with a mostly adoring public on Wednesday night. Last night I heard Mayor Emanuel say, all in one breath, was that he was against mass privatization but he was already privatizing the city’s health administration, which has a whole 3% overhead… what private company could do better than that, and that he might privatize the city’s Water system. Privatize the WATER… maybe the Mayor just doesn’t know what the word privatization means. This brings us back to Accenture. If you anything about them you probably think of them as a high-end accounting firm or if you are really paying attention they’d be the surviving section of the Enron accounting contractor Arthur Andersen. You would be wrong on the first point; right on the second point and neither point would explain exactly what Accenture is.
Formerly known as Andersen Consulting, Accenture is major provider of management, technology consulting and social services outsourcing for State and Provincial Governments. Outsourcing here is a fancy word for privatization. What they specialize in is the outsourcing of “welfare” services, education systems, including holding conferences on charter schools, and teaching municipalities how to design schools for greater corporate involvement. A better way to say all of this is: Accenture creates both the rationale and the tools to privatize major parts their governmental client’s social services delivery systems. Two essential parts of Accenture's consulting practice are promoting the privatization of government services the aptly named Government Outsourcing Consulting area and through their Customer Relationship Management Area they insert business language and processes into public government services. The claim is that this makes government more effective but what it really does is promote the idea that the public are customers or clients, not citizens. What all this boils down to is that Accenture is in the business of privatizing the government, which is a major and growing profit center for Accenture. Now if you are not a fan of privatization, because you’re an educated public policy wonk or you’ve clicked on and read through the below link that gives you this undead deal of a bad public policy idea, you know that this is not a path that ends in a healthy public sector. The point being that Mayor Emanuel; is not interested in a healthy public sector. http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2005/05/_the_troubled_h.html.
What Mayor Emanuel needs is an agency that has the scent of fairness, expertise and professionalism, just like the rest of his Administration to suggest things to him that he already wants to do. The Machiavellian Marmoset is being incredibly crafty here. If he were to suggest any number of the sorts of things Accenture is going to come up with he would be attacking unions, tearing apart city services and worse. These are the kinds of things that upset the natives and might make them restless. He knows that less than a quarter of all those who could have voted for him last time out. An uprising is something he cannot withstand at the polls. But if he can say that he is simply following the sage and expert advice of technocrats with no dog in the fight; he’s being a good steward of our tax dollars. But Accenture has a huge dog in the fight. They are in the business of privatization. They have an ideological commitment and a financial incentive to the concept. The Mayor claims that Accenture has saved other large cities and states millions of dollars and this may come as a shock to you but the Mayor is either lying to us or has been struck in the head while triathlon training.
In Colorado the Genesis Project, meant to monitor unemployment benefits and SCORE which was supposed to computerize voting records both went wrong; costing the state over $24.2 million. Neither system worked. There are dozens of other examples. Here are just a few: http://www.ejfi.org/Voting/Voting-95.htm and here are a few more http://nationalcorruptionindex.org/pages/profile.php?category=cat&selectcats=52&catidorcorp=Corporation&checkview=1&profile_id=339. IF after reading all of that you are asking yourself why anyone in their right mind would hire Accenture to do pretty much, anything then you are a sane person. The Mayor is also sane. What we are witnessing here is the setting of the stage for wholesale privatization at whatever pace will not raise too much alarm. This is not about cost or cost savings. If it were we’d be talking about reforming the M/WBE program or doing a forensic audit or raising revenue in some way but it’s not happening because saving money is not the point. If it were in either the Sun-Times or the Tribune the reporters would have thought to ask how much this whole thing is going to cost Chicago. Think about it, in two articles that both had a lot of numbers the one number neither reporter could find the space to tell us how much Accenture is charging the public to dismantle its’ public services.
Since the Mayor has decided that we are going to be paying these guys and you will note he didn’t ask permission to spend whatever it is he spent to hire them, I suggest that we get Dangerously Informed about how to pay attention to whatever the hell they will be doing. Accenture is descended from Arthur Andersen, the Enron guys. This means that in their corporate DNA via their leadership are people whose concept of ethics may well be incredibly slippery. One thing we need to watch out for is overcharging, which could be done by over-analyzing these contracts and demanding to be paid as per the terms of the contract. Even the most carefully controlling clients will have a hard time ferreting out this kind of “fraud” but Mayor Emanuel has a lot in common with the common ermine. Second we should pay close attention to if Accenture or one of its partners/clients benefits from the suggested policy recommendations. This is where the real money lies and what happens when the government and a corporation have a true partnership. This is crony capitalism on steroids with the patina of professional expertise applied to it. Remember, they want privatize social services it is part of their business model and an essential part of the Emanuel machine. I can hear the gears spinning and government being ground down one recommendation at a time.