Companies that contract work overseas under scrutiny

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(Host)Key lawmakers are discussing legislation that would prohibit the state from contracting with companies that outsource some of their work overseas.It’s likely that the effort will begin in the Senate.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel)This issue became a major concern at the Statehouse this week when it was disclosed that some functions of the state’s food stamp program have been subcontracted to a company in India.

Vermont is one of a group of states that uses Citibank to run the electronic data processing system for their food stamp programs. As part of this deal, Citibank hired a subcontractor that uses a call center in India to answer questions about eligibility issues with the program.

The Douglas Administration says it didn’t know about the outsourcing because it was unaware that Citibank had subcontracted some of the project’s work.

Burlington Rep. John Tracy introduced legislation several months ago that prohibits the state from entering into a contract if any of the work is going to be performed overseas.The proposal has not received a lot of study but Tracy hopes that this week’s disclosures will bring new attention to the bill:

(Tracy)”I do think that state tax dollars should not be going offshore for jobs when Vermonters don’t have jobs. It’s a lousy way to spend tax money and I just think it’s an inappropriate way to use money that Vermonters are putting into the kitty.”

(Kinzel) While the House Government Operations committee plans to look at the bill in the coming weeks, plans are underway in the Senate to add a provision to the state budget to prohibit outsourcing with any state contracts.

Bennington senator Dick Sears is a member of the Appropriations committee.

(Sears)”I think we have a responsibility to produce jobs in Vermont particularly and generally in the United states and as a state government I don’t think our policy should be to outsource jobs to India or any other foreign country. I think we have a real obligation to the people of the state of Vermont”.

(Kinzel) Sears says he has other concerns about outsourcing these kinds of information technology jobs.

(Sears)”I’m also concerned about the ability of some of these records to go out of the state and how protected they are particularly in terms of identity theft and other issues that we face today.”

(Kinzel) The Douglas Administration is conducting a review of all state contracts to see if any other services are being provided in a foreign country.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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