Thursday, 17 September 2015 17:17

What Jindal's Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols takes to Ochsner

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by Tom Aswell, Publisher of LouisianaVoice
“Danger, Will Robinson!”

Okay, for those of you not old enough to remember the ‘60s, that’s the catchphrase from the old CBS seriesLost in Space.



But the warning might just as well be applicable for patients of Ochsner Health System come Oct. 15.

That’s the date Kristy Nichols will be leaving as Bobby Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration to become Ochsner’s Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs (read lobbyist). That was something of a surprise in that the smart money had her going to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

Even as Jindal was sending out an email blast informing all three of his Louisiana supporters that he had just landed in California for the Republican debate and that he was “fired up” (yes, he actually said that; we’re so lucky to be on his email list), Nichols was announcing her resignation.

In her own email sent to all Division of Administration (DOA) employees on Tuesday, Nichols said she will be helping Ochsner “to strategically manage their growth as a healthcare provider.”

In other words (well, not in other words; as Oscar Madison said to Felix Unger in The Odd Couple: “Thosearethe words”), she will be doing for Ochsner what she and her boss did for the state during her three-year reign.

There were some other classic quotes contained in Kristy’s email as well as the official announcement from Jindal’s office. “I believe that our accomplishments will provide lasting benefits for generations to come,” she said.

Well, theeffectsof her tenure will be felt for generations to come but to shoehorn the word “benefits” into that statement must’ve taken a bit of imagination on someone’s part.

“I am proud of the work that we have accomplished in making Louisiana a better place to live and raise a family, and I am confident that we will continue down this path going forward,” she added.

The amazing thing is she apparently said that with a straight face. In our upcoming book about Jindal, an entire chapter is devoted to why Louisiana isnot a better place to live and raise a family. (A hint: there are nearly three dozen categories in which Louisiana ranks as the worst or near the worst in the nation—hardly a ringing endorsement of the claim of “a better place to live.”)

But for sheer brass cajones, the trophy has to go to Jindal who, in heaping praise on Nichols, said she has “fully dedicated herself to bettering the state of Louisiana,” and “Together, we’ve been able to reduce the size of government, improve health care across the state, and create a better, stronger Louisiana.”

No wonder the boy continues to languish at less than 1 percent in the Republican sweepstakes. Bobby, you may want to check out the 9th Commandment. That improved health care claim is a damned lie. There’s no other way to say it than to say our “Christian” governor is a damned liar. He knows it and we know it.

And as the state, barely two months into the current fiscal year, is already cutting $4.6 million in spending ($3.8 million of which fell on higher education), instead of sticking around to try to solve the mess, she bails. (But then again, we’ve had three years of her problem-solving and we know what that accomplished.)

Just as we learn that the TOPS free college tuition program will fall $19 million short, she lights a shuck.

Even as the projected budgetary shortfall for next year is already more than $700 million, she cuts and runs.

Most important, considering where she’s headed, the Legislative Fiscal Office informs us that Kristy’s office failed to account for $335 million in increased spending anticipated by the Department of Health and Hospitals. So, naturally, she’s going to work for Ochsner to (and we can’t repeat this often enough) do for them what she’s done for the state.

God help us but most of all, God help Ochsner, heretofore a premier provider of health care for residents of South Louisiana.

This is the individual who once said her job was to make Bobby Jindal look good. Well, we all know how that turned out.

She is the same one who commissioned an employee satisfaction/efficiency study only to find the results so devastating that she tried to keep them from becoming public. (Sorry to rain on your parade, Kristy, but it was leaked toLouisianaVoicewhich posted the results last October and which showed severe morale problems within DOA)

Then, after we ran the story, she set out on a crusade to find the leak and ended up punishing the wrong employees in the wrong agency. (How’s that for being proactive in addressing the problem of poor morale?)

She’s the same person who hired Alvarez & Marsal at $5 million and then promptly amended the contract (illegally) to $7.5 million for the company to find ways for the state to save $500 million. The 50 percent amendment was in violation of provisions that allow only a 10 percent maximum increase in contract amounts without legislative concurrence.

She’s the same one who orchestrated the Office of Group benefits debacle which raised premiums and lowered benefits for state employees, retirees, and dependents last year. That was after the state lowered premiums as a furtive means of lessening the state’s contribution obligations so that she and Jindal could use the extra money to patch over gaping budget holes—a tactic that depleted OGB’s reserve fund from $500 million to virtually nothing.

Kristy is the same one who has presided over budget disaster after budget disaster her entire tenure with this year’s patchwork effort barely lasting until legislators hit the door of the State Capitol to head back to their districts. Now, as higher education is facing even more budget cuts after the problem was supposed fixed, she smugly expressed confidence that the funds would be restored “if income forecasts improve.” She said she was “hopeful” about that possibility.

And of course, we are all hopeful that we have the winning Power Ball ticket which would improve our own income forecasts.

And just last Friday (Sept. 11) a glowing press release was issued by DOA lauding the $75 million savings in the first year of the Office of Technology Services consolidation.$75%20Million%20in%20First%20Year,%2009-10-15.pdf.

The only problem: the release was just one more in a long line of blatant lies designed to make the administration look good. And to be completely candid, it takes some real whoppers to do that.

Senate Bill 481 by State Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) created the Office of Technology Services (OTS) and was signed into law by Jindal as Act 712 of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session as part of an effort to consolidate information technology (IT) services across state agencies.

At the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), for example, the IT budget has not been reduced and in fact, may have been increased, according to sources within DOTD.

DOTD is paying for things under the consolidation that it has never had to pay for before, such as paying DOA to house the servers and mainframe (previously housed in-house at DOTD facility). DOTD is also paying more to DOA for services such as the LaGOV Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP),    the state’s data warehouse which provides “end-to-end” support for statewide and agency-specific administrative business processes.

Moreover, DOA has not allowed DOTD to purchase new equipment (which was budgeted) for the last three years. As much as 40 percent of DOTD computer equipment is six years or older, making it difficult to design roads and bridges with modern software.

So, while some savings may have been achieved by other departments and some general fund money saved (of which DOTD uses none), DODT Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) money is not being saved.

And while some savings might be realized in the future, in the short term it is most likely paper savings.

All these attributes are what Kristy Nichols will take with her to Ochsner.

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