In 2018, quasi-public Massachusetts agencies made a total of 115,202 payments worth $7.1 billion to private vendors. Quasi-public agencies are entities that receive state funding but remain partially autonomous from the executive and legislative branches. Since these agencies are somewhat independent, a look at which private vendors are paid the most, can provide important insights that promote accountability and efficient use of tax dollars.
MassOpenBooks supports this objective by presenting the large dataset in an accessible way. As displayed in the “Totals” section of MassOpenBooks, the average payment was $61,874, and the largest payment was approximately $151 million.
Below are the top five private vendors for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), the Massachusetts Port Authority, and the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority obtained from MassOpenBooks.
Of the $375.5 million in MBTA payments to Keolis Commuter Service LLC, the highest paid vendor at the MBTA, 93.6 percent was charged to “public transportation” and the remaining 6.4 percent to “highway and building projects”. In 2014, Keolis won a $2.7 billion contract that expires in 2022 to run the commuter rail.
The second-highest paid MBTA vendor was the East West Bank. The $226.7 million in total payments for 2018 were categorized as “administrative expenses”. Next was New Flyer Industries Limited, received $73.1 million. New Flyer provides the T with diesel-electric transit busses. The MBTA made $66.4 million in payments to Ansaldo Sts for “highway and building projects”. The fifth-highest paid vendor, U.S. Bank, was got $45 million. Of that amount, $44.2 million went to “fiduciary payments” and $794,215 to “administrative expenses”.
At the Massachusetts Port Authority, the highest paid private vendor in 2018 was Bank of New York Mellon at $60.1 million. Most of the payments, $60 million, went to “debt service”. Most of what was paid to the next highest paid vendor, U.S Bank, was also for debt service, along with $6.3 million for infrastructure investment or equipment. Of the $195.5 million allocated to the top-five vendors, 56.7 percent was categorized as “debt service” while 12.3 percent was for “facility and operational costs”.
The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority helps Massachusetts residents find either subsidized or unsubsidized health insurance. In 2016, there were 203,852 people on subsidized health insurance which accounts for 80 percent of the total membership pool. The three highest paid vendors in 2018 categorized their payments as “human and social services” cost. The fourth highest paid vendor, Ntt Data Services LLC, provided “consultant services”. The next highest paid vendor, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, categorized most of its payment as “human and social services” but used $35,044 for “consultant services”.
MassOpenBooks, sorts through billions of dollars in vendor payments by government agencies. The database facilitates government transparency and allows easier access to the data by organizing thousands of transactions. This public scrutiny of statewide spending encourages the Commonwealth to remain accountable.
Ana Rijal is a Wellesley Freedom Project intern for Pioneer Institute. She is a rising junior studying Psychology and Philosophy.