The California Assembly last Thursday passed a union-sponsored resolution aimed at halting most public-sector outsourcing. House Resolution 29 by Jimmy Gomez, (D-Los Angeles), sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, states that outsourcing “harms transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition…”
While the bill analysis states that the fiscal impacts are unknown, the non-binding resolution could have significant effects on information system contracting by states and localities. San Diego County, for example, has outsourced its entire IT operation for many years with good results.
Harold Tuck, former CIO of San Diego County, said that outsourcing does need some safeguards, and those can be built into the outsourcing contract or made part of the procurement process.
“Back in the 1990s,” said Tuck, “we created something called managed competition.” That means that any possible outsourcing contract is opened to public employees for bidding. The county got the public employees a consultant to help put together a bid, and the private-sector companies had to underbid the public employees by a certain percentage if they were to be considered.
Tuck says, however, that some highly skilled jobs cannot be done in house — most jurisdictions don’t have the money to hire highly-paid specialists for things like database administration and mobile application development, and so it’s not practical to require them to be done in-house.
It’s about exploring options. During the recession, for example, the City of San Carlos, Calif., outsourced its police, fire and parks and balanced its budget for the first time in 11 years. Granted that the outsourcing involved turning over police duties to the county sheriff, and consolidating the fire services, but that is yet another example of keeping all options open in order to get a job done at the least expense.