April 25, 2007

The following is an email from the Texas State Employees' Union (TSEU) regarding the Office of the Inspector General's report on TIERS. It was sent to me by an HHSC worker. It's long, so I've put it beneath the fold. Click on for more. And ponder that Albert Hawkins' job appears to be safe.

TIERS/IEES Review by the Office of the Inspector General

Inspector General Flood released a report on TSEU Lobby Day (April 18) that highlights the weaknesses of the TIERS system. The OIG review, requested on March 13 by 30 of the 31 members of the Texas Senate, lays out the problems that have make TIERS minimally functional at best, and that call into question whether the state should continue the fund the TIERS development program.

The OIG review notes that over half a billion dollars in tax funds have gone into the TIERS and IEES/call center programs, and the implication is that much of that money has probably been wasted.

Among its findings the OIG review includes strong evidence that SAVERR is a faster, more efficient, and more accurate system than TIERS.

The report makes six major recommendations:

1. Put in single project manager in control of the entire TIERS/Integrated Eligibility project.
2. Have an independent consultant review the TIERS and SAVERR systems to determine which, if either, will be an adequate system.
3. Limit the number of new cases being put into the TIERS system, and continue the freeze on TIERS roll-out.
4. Have the State Auditor's Office (SAO) audit the TIERS, SAVERR, and IEES programs.
5. Have the state Quality Assurance Team monitor TIERS/IEES implementation.
6. Stabilize the current workforce environment.

TIERS/IEE Costs so far

TIERS $425,603,019
IEES $ 96,535,389
TOTAL $522,138,408

Dewhurst, Craddick call for TIERS freeze, audit

In the next few days Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, will sign and send letters to State Auditor John Keel and to HHSC Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins. The letter to the State Auditor will call for an full review of the TIERS system by the auditor's office. The letter to Commissioner Hawkins will call for a freeze in TIERS expansion until the auditor's review is complete.


Texas State Employees Union Four point plan for high-quality, cost-effective human services eligibility

We can clean up the mess. A decisively implemented, well-designed plan can restore efficiency and effectiveness to Texas' human services eligibility system and pave the way for real improvements.

1. Terminate the Accenture contract.

The changes announced in December 2006 are a good first step, but now we face the prospect of paying nearly $600 million for products and services of minimal, if any, value to the State of Texas. The funds saved by cancelling the Accenture contract could be used to rebuild the eroded capacity of the human services eligibility system. TSEU has identified numerous provisions of the contract that would allow cancellation.

2. Rebuild a functioning human services eligibility system.

Texas had a system that was functional and efficient. The state won enhanced funding bonuses every year because we exceeded federal standards. The system must be re-built and improved. The conversion of 900 temporary eligibility positions to regular positions is a good first step, but the eligibility system has been decimated as thousands of employees have left and have not been replaced.

A. Hire more staff: It would require less than 1000 additional positions to rebuild the staff to the 2004 levels. Add these staff and re-evaluate staffing levels in 2009.
B. Rebuild a qualified staff:
1.) Create a program to bring skilled, tenured staff who have left back into the agency.
2.) Reverse the damage caused by the Job Search and Placement ( JSAP) program by allowing all HHSC employees who accepted transfers under JSAP to return to their original positions.
3.) Rebuild the training program for eligibility staff.
4.) Cancel the Convergys contract and rebuild effective human resources/personnel services to support management and front-line staff.
C. Consider creative ways to enhance services. Ask front-line eligibility staff for ideas.

3. Integrate CHIP eligibility with children's Medicaid Eligibility in the state-operated intake system.

HHSC already operates state-employee-staffed call centers in El Paso, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and Dallas that do intake for Children's Medicaid. The CHIP and Children's Medicaid programs are closely related: integrating eligibility would provide a seamless, "one-stop" system in which a single qualified worker would directly enroll the applicant in whichever program they are eligible for. This step would reduce costs and increase accuracy and timeliness in providing these crucial services to Texas children.

4. Deploy a cost-effective, functional data system for human services eligibility.

A. Have a task force that is outside the HHSC structure and answerable to the Legislature re-evaluate both the TIERS system and the SAVERR system to determine the systems' present and potential functionality.
B. Move decisively on the findings of the study to either complete the development of TIERS or cancel the project; to implement an upgrade of SAVERR , or to pursue a new approach.
C. Suspend all input or conversion of cases into TIERS until the future of the system has been decided and, if it is decided to keep TIERS, until the system is fully functional.
D. Seek and accept the input of front-line human services staff as part of all decision-making and developmental steps to deploy a functional system.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 25, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo