Private contractors faster and cheaper at Katrina cleanup

NY Times:


There are many reasons for the difference between the lack of progress in Pascagoula and the quick cleanup in the Biloxi area. But local officials here point the finger at what they consider the number one culprit: the federal government and, in particular, the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the aftermath of Katrina, Harrison County, the home of Biloxi, and Jackson County, where Pascagoula is located, each had about 10 million cubic yards of debris to clean up. Both counties took up the offer from the federal government to foot the bill.

But while Harrison County and all but one of its cities hired contractors on their own, Jackson County and its cities, at the urging of the federal government, asked the Army Corps to take on the task. It is a choice that, officials in Jackson County said, they have regretted ever since.

The cleanup in Jackson County and its municipalities has not only cost millions of dollars more than in neighboring counties, it is taking longer: 39 percent of the work is completed in Jackson County as of last week, while 57 percent is done in Harrison County and its cities that are managing the job on their own, federal records show.

"Something is very wrong here," Jackson County Supervisor Frank Leach said. "Our federal government is paying an extraordinary amount of money for services that are not being performed adequately."

The trend appears to hold true in Louisiana, as well: The cleanup is 45 percent finished in jurisdictions that hired the Corps, and nearly 70 percent complete in communities that are doing it themselves, state records show. The imbalance remains even when New Orleans, where the cleanup has been particularly complex and slow, is removed from the tally. Across the Gulf region, the cleanup is, on average, about 60 percent done, records show.


So why doesn't the Corps hire private contractors? This is an unusual story for the NY Times which usually thinks government is the best at most services. It could be that it is just part of its Bush bashing meme, but they have swerved into a fact that conservatves have argued for ages. Privitatizing is more effiecent in time and money.


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