Dead cockroaches, expired food, filthy conditions, and unreported drug- and weapon-related incidents were all uncovered at a Florida Job Corps center operated by a national company that claims a “commitment to corporate excellence.”
The findings are documented in a newly-released audit from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), which found the problems during an inspection of the Gainesville (Fla.) Job Corps Center that is run under contract by DEL-JEN, a company owned by Fluor Corp.
The audit marks at least the second time this year that a company contracted to run Job Corps centers has been cited by the IG’s office for violations at the centers. (See “How Not to Handle Sex, Drugs and Violence at Job Corps.”)
Officials at DEL-JEN did not return several e-mails and calls to the company’s corporate offices. Job Corps officials expect to file a formal response soon.
Job Corps – a $1.68 billion education and training program disadvantaged youths – serves 42,000 youths at any given time at 123 Job Corps sites throughout the United States. DEL-JEN, a youth employment training agency with contracts in several states, is under contract to run four Job Corps centers.
In the latest audit, which a spokesman for the IG said was required by law and not spurred by anything in particular, federal inspectors found “multiple safety- and health-related deficiencies” at the Gainesville Job Corps Center run by DEL-JEN. They also turned up shoddy recordkeeping and instances where youths were listed as “completers” of Career Technical Training (CTT) for various jobs even though the youths had failed to complete all of the required training tasks. They included trainees learning to draw blood (phlebotomy technicians) to people learning to be pantry cooks.
The IG’s office estimates that between 12 and 36 of 277 youths at the Gainesville Job Corps Center failed to complete all of the required CTT tasks. Consequently, the audit states, DEL-JEN may owe the federal government between $9,000 and $27,000, or $750 for each case.
Anand Vimalassery, director of government relations for the National Job Corps Association – a professional association of site operators – noted that Job Corps centers are subject to demanding reporting requirements.
“There can be 360-something line items that must be signed and checked off to show a youth has demonstrated a competency,” Vimalassery said. “Yes, they need to have all those competencies, but that’s a lot of recording.”
He said that in some instances youths have completed the training requirements but the paperwork isn’t always filled out completely to prove it.
Vimalassery said the problems uncovered in audits do not necessarily reflect Job Corps sites in general. He also said the association views the audits as a tool to help troubled centers get better.
“We think these audits are helpful,” Vimalassery said. “They have their purpose.”
Food from 2000
During its inspection of the Gainesville center, the IG’s office also found:
* Expired food in the cafeteria freezer, including a can of refried beans and two cans of tuna that expired in 2000. (That was two presidents ago).
* A large pile of loose garbage that emanated a stench outside the female dormitory and attracted flies. (DEL-JEN said the problem stemmed from a change in garbage pickup contractors).
* Dead cockroaches left for several days on the floor of the female staff restroom and in a utility drawer of the concession stand in the recreation center. (DEL-JEN blamed the problem on its pest control service provider).
* Dirty floors and walls in the wellness center and cafeteria kitchen.
* Dirty bathrooms with overflowing garbage cans.
In general, DEL-JEN did not dispute the findings and said it has or will implement policies and procedures to keep the place tidy.
It also promised to clean up its recordkeeping practices after inspectors found instances in which youths’ files lacked important documents, such as high school diplomas and transcripts.
But neatness wasn’t the Gainesville Job Corps Center’s only problem. Despite a DEL-JEN corporate assessment that claimed, “all reportable events are recorded and entered appropriately” and “the center manages these incidents and reporting very well,” federal inspectors discovered several cases involving the staff’s failure to report dozens of weapons- and drug-related offenses involving center youths.
The rationale behind the reporting requirement is that reporting better enables the feds to monitor compliance, make sure appropriate action is taken, track trends, make policy decisions, and respond to the media about such incidents.
The take-home point for government contractors in general and Job Corps site operators in particular seems to be: Tell the government when something bad happens before they discover it on their own.
The Gainesville Job Corps Center isn’t the only Job Corps site run by DEL-JEN where investigators found problems.
The IG, responding to a complaint that was later investigated as part of the audit, also found that a manager at the Albuquerque Job Corps Center had used Job Corps funds to purchase at least two prescription medications for the manager’s use that had actually been prescribed for one of the Job Corps youths. Subsequently, DEL-JEN revised its procedures to require two medical staff members to sign off on prescriptions.