Last May, Democracy Tree reported about the vendor that won in the Michigan Department of Corrections bidding process for privatized food services in state prisons, a company called Aramark, the world’s largest food provider.
As reported in MLive this week, Gov. Snyder is giving the go-ahead for Aramark:
“We went through an extensive process to look at doing it in-house versus looking to the outside,” Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday morning on WJR-AM 760 in Detroit. “I believe in competitive bidding — versus privatization — but we went through a competitive bidding process and we found a good answer. It will save us money and hopefully provide better service.”
In light of the governor’s claim that they conducted a fair bidding process that will both save taxpayer dollars and “hopefully” provide better service, it’s time to revisit what we discovered back in May.
At that time, the Michigan Department of Corrections decided to reverse its recent decision not to privatize prison food service after GOP lawmakers questioned the bidding process. They tentatively awarded the contract to Aramack. Republican lawmakers re-crunched the numbers to their own liking producing an outcome that favored Aramack over public workers. AFSCME Council 25, which represents the 373 workers that will lose their jobs, told The Detroit News that the legislature “cooked the books”:
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, which represents about 38 unionized food service supervisors, plans to challenge the contract recommendation to the board, union lobbyist Nick Ciaramitaro said.
Ciaramitaro questioned the savings estimate since the state spends about $2 a day to feed a prisoner, and the food service workers have dual roles as trained as corrections officers.
“We’re now allowing an outside vendor to come in and pretend that they’re saving money because not every prisoner eats every meal,” Ciaramitaro said. “They cook the books to show a one-time savings.”
A Detroit Free Press article supported Ciaramitaro’s claim:
A 2007 report by the Florida Department of Corrections Bureau of Internal Audit found that a large number of prisoners stopped showing up for meals after Aramark took over the contract, “creating a windfall for the vendor and reducing the value of the services provided without a proportionate decrease in … rates charged to the department.
In 2008, Florida cited Aramark in an audit for withholding food and over-billing, and the contract was severed when Aramark refused to improve their standards. A year later, Kentucky officials claimed that a food shortage under Aramark sparked a riot at one of their facilities. A 2010 audit of Aramark in Kentucky identified food skimping, problems with food safety, over-billing, and poor record keeping.
In spite of their history, Snyder has given approval for this company to start providing food service in Michigan, signing a $145 million, three-year contract with Aramark. Let’s hope the contract has a termination provision.
Amy Kerr Hardin