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Sep
2013
30

“Outsourcing America Exposed” Makes Public the Country’s Worst Privatizers

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The Center for Media and Democracy has unveiled its new web resource, Outsourcing America Exposed, which provides an in-depth look at the dangers of privatization. Its aim is to help taxpayers stay informed about the corporations that are quietly attempting to privatize public services in their communities.  

The launch of the website, brought to you by the same people who created ALEC Exposed, comes complete with a fantastic new video from Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mark Fiore: “Outsourcing Eddie’s Democracy Liquidation Sale”

Outsourcing America Exposed will also profile a different outsourcing company each week througout the fall.  Their guided tour through the “Who’s Who of companies ruining America” begins with French-based multinational corporation Sodexo, which has taken the low road to becoming one of the largest providers of food services for schools, college campuses, the U.S. military, and other government entities across the United States.  

Among the many controversies surrounding Sodexo, whose North American operations bring in $8.8 billion in annual revenues, is their 2010 rebate scheme:

In 2010, Sodexo was caught fomenting a race to the bottom in food service, by choosing food suppliers based not on quality but based on which supplier could give them the highest cash rebate for the contract. This iced out small local farmers and other quality food suppliers in favor of big agriculture and big business that could best engage in the kickback scheme.

After an attorney general investigation, Sodexo paid an eye-popping $20 million in 2010 to settle claims that it overcharged 21 New York school districts and the State University of New York (SUNY) system for food and facilities services from 2004 to 2009. New York’s case led to a “major investigation” by at least three other state attorneys general, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General began a nationwide audit in October 2011 for alleged systematic taxpayer fraud by multiple firms.

The scandal prompted Congressional hearings, and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) declared, “Everyday the government provides meals to our soldiers at home and overseas, veterans, government employees and to our children through the national school lunch program. . . . Recent reports of fraud and other abuses in food service contracts have snowballed. . . . The message of these reports and investigations is clear, we are not doing enough to make sure that the government is not being cheated.”

Sodexo has history of providing a low quality product.  In recent years, horse meat has been found in products it has served in England while in America their food has been linked to Listeria:
Most famously, Sodexo was implicated in the British horsemeat scandal earlier this year, when the company found horse DNA in some of its products and withdrew all frozen beef products from its catering operations at 2,300 British schools, care facilities, military bases, prisons, office canteens, and sporting venues.

In 2007, when Sodexo was contracted to provide food services to all Marine Corps mess halls in the United States, the USDA recalled 3,000 pounds of chicken that may have been contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Some of that chicken had been shipped to Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. In 2011, Sodexo lost part of its $1.2 billion contract, no longer catering Marine mess halls on both the West and East coasts.

For these and other reasons, numerous school districts and other institutions — including eleven universities– have cancelled some or all contracts with Sodexo, and many are happy with the change.

Politicians, frequently Republican, sell privatization from state-to-state as a cure-all for budgetary woes. But it is important that taxpayers know what they are getting into when they support these types candidates.  Outsourcing America Exposed takes a leap towards making available the information resources necessary to fight the companies whose only aim is to buy low and sell lower. Demanding accountability from the politicians who facilitate such transactions is something every American is entitled to.

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