Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Corruption? What Corruption?

On April 27, the Texas Senate passed H.B. 1892, a bill that will soon be on its way to the governor, who will probably veto it. Among many other things, H.B. 1892 would reduce the authority of the state to enter into contracts with the private sector for the construction of toll roads, and would broaden the authority of local government entities to engage in road construction. In response, the governor issued the following statement:
“I will review this bill carefully because we cannot have public policy in this state that shuts down road construction, kills jobs, harms air quality, prevents access to federal highway dollars, and creates an environment within local government that is ripe for political corruption.” (Emphasis added.)
Whatever one’s view of this legislation, it is surprising that the governor would point to the possibility of local government “political corruption,” particularly given the various problems that state agencies have had in recent years. Here is a small sample:
In May 2005, the Austin American-Statesman disclosed that “nearly 200 registered sex offenders have received Viagra and other sex-enhancing drugs” though the state-operated Medicaid program. (Austin American-Statesman; May 25, 2005)
Recent reports have detailed case after case of abuse of Texas youth in Texas Youth Commission facilities.
In March of this year, several news outlets reported that “state figures show that at least 13 children in foster care have died of abuse or neglect by foster caregivers since 2003.” Lawmakers were looking for a way to improve the management role of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. (KWTX.com; March 2, 2007)
A month later, the Austin American-Statesman reported that it had become so difficult for the state to place children in foster care that some are sleeping in state offices or hotels. Lawmakers were working to overhaul the state’s Child Protective Services, “which is plagued by high case loads and high staff turnover.” (Austin American-Statesman; April 12, 2007)
In November 2006, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that “Texas nursing-home residents who may have suffered abuse or neglect waited weeks last year for a state agency to investigate thousands of complaints, despite a federal policy requiring a rapid response.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram; November 3, 2006)
In December 2006, the Austin America-Statesman reported that a “high-ranking state health official who was ordered to leave his job in October (2006) was a paid consultant for a drug company whose product became part of a standard treatment in state mental health programs.” (Austin American-Statesman; December 19, 2006)
The next day, the Austin American-Statesman reported that “state officials altered records, pressured witnesses and delayed an investigation into whether the state health department improperly used lobbyists to push legislation in 2005, according to a state investigative report.” (Austin American-Statesman; December 20, 2006)
In February of this year, the Houston Chronicle reported that “Texas Department of Public Safety officials were aware of security breaches in the handling of their drug evidence as recently as 2006 and as far back as at lease 2003…” The Chronicle also reported on the arrest of “a technician at the state’s Houston crime lab after a DPS investigation discovered he apparently had been for years selling cocaine smuggled out of the lab.” (Houston Chronicle; February 21, 2007)
Local officials, of course, don’t expect the state government to perform flawlessly in every instance, but they also don’t expect to be singled out as a potential source of “political corruption.”

No comments: