Beware of caterers bearing gifts UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beware of caterers bearing gifts UPDATE

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 6:20 AM

The Democrat-Gazette's Debra Hale-Shelton does it again (pay wall) — unearthed a most salient fact missing from a University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees discussion. That $700,000 gift from food service operator Aramark to renovate the president's house at no cost to students and taxpayers? Er, it's conditioned on Aramark keeping and extending its food service contract at UCA long enough to "amortize" the gift — meaning get the money back, with profit — through charges to school and student and visitor.

There's some indication that this baksheesh is typical in the industry. That only goes to suggest that there's a pretty hefty margin built into such arrangements, which in turn suggests competitive bidding might be in the public institution's interest.

UPDATE: UCA has announced a called meeting of the Board of Trustees for 3:30 p.m. Thursday. I'm guessing cafeteria services will be on the agenda.

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