Tag Archives: crony capitalism

Redirect: The view from inside the stable

In response to yesterday’s post about the troubles in the Vermont Training Program, I got a nice call from Lucy Leriche, Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, which I believe I referred to as the Augean Stable of state government.

Well, nice to know somebody’s paying attention.

She made some good points, and some not-so-convincing points. Overall, I have to say my view of ACCD hasn’t changed much.

The #1 item she brought to my attention: “the reboot.”

The Vermont Training Program was overhauled in 2014. …The Auditor began his inquiry and report in 2015. What he had to work with was data from before the reboot. We have made a lot of changes, but the report is based on old information.

Hoffer’s response: he was aware of the reboot, and considered it in his report. His view: the reboot made some changes, but fell short in many ways. “It still relies on self-certifications [by applicants],” he wrote in an email. “The program should do some independent validation, as is recommended by the State’s Internal Control guidance. It’s a matter of adopting best practices in order to be accountable. These are taxpayer funds.”

Over to you, Ms. Leriche:

The Legislature made it clear they didn’t want us to build a big bureaucracy. They wanted as many dollars to go to grants as possible. If we did everything Doug Hoffer suggested, it would take at least one full-time person. That would take a lot of money away from grants.

Okay, let’s see here. They didn’t want “a big bureaucracy,” and following Hoffer’s suggestions would take “at least one full-time person.” That doesn’t sound like “a big bureaucracy” to me. It sounds more like a reasonable investment in protecting taxpayer funds.

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The Augean Stable of state government

The Agency of Human Services comes in for a lot of green-eyeshade scrutiny when budget time rolls around. With good reason; thanks to outmoded software and management, I’m sure AHS could do a better job than it does. And thanks to our jobless, middle-class-killing “recovery”, it’s coping with ever-increasing demand.

Mr. Hoffer detects an unpleasant odor. (Not exactly as illustrated.)

Mr. Hoffer detects an unpleasant odor. (Not exactly as illustrated.)

But pound-for-pound, I doubt that any part of state government can top the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for waste, futility, and inside deals.

In the latter category, we had the backroom agreement last spring that landed Lake Champlain Region Chamber of Commerce a $100,000 no-bid grant for developing business with Quebec. And now, in the second category, we have a rather devastating memo about the inadequate structure of the Vermont Training Program, which provides grants to businesses for employee training.

In his memo*, Auditor Doug Hoffer is far too politic to use the most appropriate term — “clusterf*ck.” But that’s the message. As I was reading the memo, my thought was, “Maybe we should just burn down the whole place and start from scratch.” His bullet-point highlights:

*As of this writing, not available online. But check the Auditor’s website; it should be posted soon.

— The VTP has no effective internal controls to ensure that applicants meet the various eligibility requirements or that grant funds are only used for supplemental, rather than replacement, training.

— The wage increases reported for trainees may not accurately reflect changes in hourly wages and may reflect other factors not related to VTP training.

— A substantial portion of VTP’s total resources are directed to a few large corporations year after year.

Yeesh.

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