The top lawyer for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission says that yeah, things do suck with Accenture, but they don't quite suck enough to fire them.
"Termination is always a pretty severe remedy, and it's the one that you would hope to invoke as a very last resort," [Steve] Aragon, who is preparing recommendations for Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins, said in an interview.
"I can't say that I've seen anything that represents something that in my opinion would require termination of the contract for cause."
"It doesn't take a very detailed or legal analysis to see that Accenture has not delivered on what they said they were going to deliver," said Mike Gross, vice president of the 12,000-member Texas State Employees Union, which includes workers who have lost jobs in the outsourcing.
After the private group, formally known as Texas Access Alliance, launched the pilot version of its enrollment system in Travis and Hays counties in January, applicants for Medicaid, food stamps and welfare experienced long hold times and spoke with call center operators who couldn't answer their questions. Hawkins has delayed the statewide rollout of the system, which replaces some enrollment offices with call centers, until problems with training and technology are addressed.
The commission also is paying $1,800 retention bonuses to 1,000 state workers.
Obviously, if we get to that point, we'll be truly stuck. Sure, we can sue Accenture and maybe get our money back, but that won't help the people who've been harmed by this exercise, nor will it get us back to a state of having trained and competent employees in place to help those people. That's why we need to know, and soon, what the failure conditions are.
State officials couldn't immediately put a price tag on unexpected costs the state has incurred because of the enrollment system's problems. They plan to negotiate reductions in some of the fees paid to the contractor, Aragon said.
When a call center representative screens an applicant for public assistance, for example, the state pays a fee, about 2 cents.
State officials originally estimated they'd save $646 million over five years through outsourcing. They don't have an updated estimate, but Aragon said he is confident there will be some savings.
Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said that despite the problems, Texas' 3 million public assistance recipients will have more options under the new system, which allows them to apply for programs via fax, Internet, mail or in person, instead of just in person.
Anyway. For further reading, there's this Chron editorial from yesterday, which stops short of calling for termination of the contract now, and Father John, who knows well how this system should be run. Check 'em out.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 18, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack