LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Some government officials are calling the Department of Administration's belated report on how much state agencies spent on private contractors last year "troubling."
The annual Contractual Services Purchasing Report shows state agencies spent $363.8 million on outside service contracts in fiscal year 2011. That's a 26 percent jump.
"We really need to reexamine if that is the best use of taxpayer dollars, to be outsourcing at a cost that is more for taxpayers, rather than keeping it in-house with our state employees," said state Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
News 8 made multiple calls to the Department of Administration on Thursday for comment. Those calls were not returned.
The report does not list specifics, like which private companies got contracts or what their compensation rates were. Plus, the report lumps tens of millions of dollars under vague categories, like "Professional Services - General" or "Miscellaneous Services."
"It reinforces the importance of the need for increased transparency and accountability in our state agency operations. And if the governor is serious about combating waste, fraud and abuse in state government, I think it's pretty clear that cutting back on outsourcing and costly private contracting is a good place to start," said Shilling.
The University of Wisconsin System was an exception in this report. UW spending on outside contractors, for things like food services and waste management, actually fell by 2 percent.
"I'm not sure there's one clear answer. But, our best judgment is just because we had a lot of cuts in our overall spending last year and that affected everything we did, including any outside contracting," said UW Board of Regents President Brent Smith.
Some say the timing of the report's release is suspicious. By law, the DOA is supposed to file the report by Oct. 15. That makes it nearly nine months late.
"The timing of it is troubling,” said Shilling. “It does go to show that this was not a priority to get this information before the Legislature."
The DOA is reportedly laying blame for the delay on the UW system, saying it didn't get its data in until May of this year.
Smith doesn't remember it that way.
"My understanding is that we submitted it timely, that there was a formatting issue, that it had to be reformatted. That took a couple months, and then we resubmitted it …. in March or April of this year," said Smith.
Whatever the reason, the delay is leaving some lawmakers saying it might be time to tighten the reigns.
"We really need to keep a better track, a better handle on the expectations that we have from our state agencies to provide the Legislature with this information," said Shilling.
The agency that shelled out the most cash on private contractors was the Department of Health Services, spending more than $167 million. That's up from about $111 million the year before.