Thursday, October 23, 2008

Outsourcing Government

Texas has gone to great lengths to remove state employees from the state payrolls, replacing them with contracts on the basis of competing bids. This is called outsourcing, and the tendency of contract awards to go to familiar names has been noted throughout the process. Most recently scandals broke out in the youth prison system, where hideous mistreatment of kids was the result of irresponsible outsourcing by our rightwing Texas government.

Now a real boner has occurred, and medicaid fraud cases may never be prosecutable because of it.

A massive computer crash that destroyed hundreds of the state attorney general's confidential documents may prevent scores of Medicaid fraud prosecutions and has revealed serious problems with a newly expanded state outsourcing of computer services.

As much as 50 percent of the Tyler Medicaid fraud division's files were destroyed in July when a server being repaired by a state vendor wouldn't restart. The scope of the damage is in dispute.

In an apparent oversight, the documents lost were not backed up – meaning that evidence crucial to convicting dishonest health-care providers who ripped off the state's health insurance program for the poor may never be recovered. E-mails and other records obtained by The Dallas Morning News indicate some Tyler investigators lost up to 90 percent of their open case files.
There have been other highly publicized problems with big outsourcing pushes by the Health and Human Services Commission – one that created privately run call centers and maintained software to support eligibility screening for public assistance, and another that privatized payroll and hiring at 12 social services agencies.

In 2005, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry, building on an earlier outsourcing of state computer services and data backups, approved a measure forcing at least 15 state agencies to join a dozen that already were using an earlier vendor, Northrop Grumman Corp.

A new, expanded outsourcing deal with Team for Texas – the current provider – was struck in November 2006 and took effect in April 2007.

The deal, expected to save the state $153 million by 2013, has attracted little public attention because even though more than 500 state employees lost their jobs, about 40 percent found other state positions and the rest were guaranteed spots with IBM or its subcontractors Unisys, Xerox and Pitney Bowes.

In July, though, state Auditor John Keel criticized the information department for not riding herd on major state agencies. Though agencies were supposed to hand over to IBM their most knowledgeable and experienced computer technicians, many kept those workers by using them to fill other vacancies, Mr. Keel's audit said.

The state's sorry record, one it sent on to D.C. eight years ago, has resulted from domination by the right wing that so despises good government. Cronies are its object, and personal fortunes its most important product. The kind of disasters that constantly result from this 'governing' process are making it hard for even the hardest case to cling to their certitude that libruls are the enemy.

This election won't be the end of rotten government in Texas, yet. It will take more thorough devastation to make that happen, but that seems very close to happening.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a disaster. And these precious data were never backed up. Wow.

And what does this mean, "Though agencies were supposed to hand over to IBM their most knowledgeable and experienced computer technicians, many kept those workers by using them to fill other vacancies, Mr. Keel's audit said."

Hand over as in lay them off so they can be hired by IBM? And this was in the contract?

Sigh. This is simply the latest bomb going off in Texas privatization schemes (the DHHS/Accenture fiasco is the one that came to my mind).

When do you think Texans will wise up?

12:41 PM  

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