'Revolving Door' of State Contracting Officials Moving

A report on ethics and accountability in state contracting by the U.S. General Accounting Office found no direct link between state employees taking jobs with private-sector contractors -- often referred to as the "revolving door" -- and those same contractors winning state contracts.

The report, however, did call for strengthening state ethics policies and enforcement approaches, which vary widely from state to state.

"One of the things Congress was concerned about was that there might be rampant 'revolving door' and [that] these companies listing former state employees had an unfair advantage. While we found there are a number of public employees moving to private-sector companies, it doesn't appear they have an unfair advantage," said David Bellis, assistant director for education, welfare and income security issues at GAO and preparer of the GAO report. Bellis added that the states were very cooperative in the review process and "were in agreement with what we said."

The GAO study focused on state-administered child support enforcement and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families programs in four states: Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas.

The report cited that "more than one-third of states lack one or more ethics provisions, such as restrictions against certain employment activities by former state employees and prohibitions intended to deter the misuse of public office for private gain." The report includes a chart detailing state provisions not included in contracting policies for these states. The report, "Social Service Privatization: Ethics and Accountability Challenges in State Contracting," is available at www.gao.gov by selecting GAO Reports and Testimony, choosing the GPO Access Search Page and entering the Report No. hehs-99-41.

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