June 02, 2006
We're on a fax to nowhere

It's time for another stupid and inexcusable screwup by everyone's favorite privatization project.

Three months ago, dozens of documents from Texas containing highly confidential financial and health information began arriving over a fax machine at a Seattle warehouse.

Shaun Peck, a clerk at the warehouse, searched through the mysterious documents - revealing Social Security numbers, medical evaluations, income tax forms and pay stubs - and wondered why they kept coming and where they should be going instead.

Back in Texas, frustrated elderly, disabled and poor people have long wondered why they sent applications for benefits to the state only to be told they never arrived.

Peck didn't know it, but he had discovered the much-rumored "black hole" eating up Texas applications for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The snafu is just the latest example of confusion during the state's transition this year from public to private screening of health and welfare applicants under an $899 million contract with outsourcing giant Accenture LLP.


Accenture issued a statement to the Chronicle on Thursday. It said as soon as it became aware that faxes were going to a wrong number, it began a thorough investigation leading to actions that should stop faxes from landing in Seattle.

"We found out about it yesterday," said the company's spokeswoman, Jill Angelo of Public Strategies Inc. in Austin.

Just read the whole thing - it's too detailed to excerpt effectively. This really is a bad joke, isn't it? These yahoos at Accenture can't do anything right. But hey, think of all the money we're saving. You have to admit, they really thought outside the box on this one.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 02, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

I say this as a 45-year-old native West Texan:

I have got to get out of this crazy state. We have elected a bunch of nimrods who believe that crony capitalism is good for them and theirs and "privatization" is good for the rest of us.

I'd say more, but I'm too mad to do so.

Posted by: Roy on June 2, 2006 10:16 AM

Accenture used to be part of Arthur Andersen, right?

When I was in business school AA was considered the most prestigious of the then-Big Eight accounting firms. Even more amazing to me than the fall of Enron was the evaporation of Andersen. But on closer examination, it appeared that the partners took a few platoons of beancounters and scattered in every direction.

Sort of like roaches do when you turn on the kitchen light in the middle of the night.

Posted by: PDiddie on June 2, 2006 10:45 AM

The left is as knee-jerk against privatization as the right is knee-jerk *for* it.

It's always easy to find specific examples that "prove" one's own ideological position on it, but I think fairer minds would look at each situation on an individual basis rather than apply rigid ideology.

Posted by: Tim on June 2, 2006 12:27 PM

The only thing I'm applying here, Tim, is the facts of the Accenture outsourcing of THHSC, which speak for themselves. This has been a Class A screwup from the beginning. And as I've said from the beginning, the design and implementation of this project, as anyone who's been involved in any large-scale outsourcing would know, just about guaranteed that it would fall far short of its promises.

I'm not reflexively against outsourcing/privatizing. I just believe there are limits to what it can accomplish, and this case is a prime example of what happens when you hit those limits. And I get really upset when the fallout from running into these realities disproportionately affects the kind of needy and vulnerable people that society and government are supposed to help.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on June 2, 2006 12:40 PM

Accenture's lobbyist is Mike Toomey, former Perry chief of staff and architect of the legislation in 2003 that stripped CHIP coverage from kids and allowed for this pruivatiuzation scheme. Also on Accenture's payroll: Ray Sullivan, former Perry spokesman. No wonder Perry's changing the subject with an anti-immigration speech at the GOP convention in San Antonio today.

Posted by: Cafe Tortoli on June 2, 2006 2:31 PM

I agree with Charles. This has been a travesty from the beginning.

And yes...
Accenture = Arthur Anderson = Greg Phillips = Wohlgemuth = Albert Hawkins = Bush

We have got to turn this country around!

Posted by: hhscsurvivalist on June 3, 2006 12:11 AM