Investigative Report Faults Nebraska's Contracting System
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Dec. 15, 2021, midnight ·
Listen To This Story
The end of Nebraska’s controversial child welfare contract with Saint Francis Ministries is just the latest failure in the state’s flawed contracting system. That’s according to a report by an investigative committee of the Legislature.
Nebraska announced Tuesday it’s ending its $147 million emergency contract with Saint Francis Ministries to manage child welfare cases involving abused or neglected children in the Omaha area. The move ends a two-year saga that saw Saint Francis underbid the previous provider by 40 percent, then not have enough money or workers to handle the caseload and required a new contract that made the final cost more than the previous provider bid.
Wednesday, a special legislative committee appointed to investigate the Saint Francis contract issued its report. The report says, in 2007, Nebraska paid more than $11 million for a Medicaid management system, and in 2014, spent more than $60 million for a Medicaid enrollment system, neither of which ever worked. Committee Chair John Arch said the Saint Francis contract shows the same problems still persist.
“What we determined was, it’s not related to an individual; it’s not related to an administration, and we said ‘This is a system issue,’” Arch said.
The state’s attempt to privatize child welfare case management started during the administration of former Gov. Dave Heineman, and continued into the Ricketts administration.
At a hearing in October, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Administrative Services, both of which were involved in approving the Saint Francis contract, disagreed over who was ultimately responsible. Arch said it wasn’t clear, and the state needs to hire a consultant to help fix the system.