Friday, March 03, 2006

Houston Chronicle: Accenture's work for Texas agency worries senator

Passing the Bucks

We are in the early stage of the final meltdown of the Texas welfare system. It will get much worse, but it is already getting bad. In the following article, you should note a few things:

1) Accenture, the private Bermuda based corporation that is taking over half of the Texas welfare system (CHIP, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and TANF) is dropping the ball, and work is being shifted from the private contractor to the rapidly shrinking numbers of state workers... which is what always has happened in the past, and I predicted would happen here as well.

2) The TIERS Computer System continues to not work properly, despite about 300 million dollars being thrown down the TIERS rat hole.

March 1, 2006, 11:25PM
Accenture's work for Texas agency worries senator
State workers raise concerns over consulting firm's customer service, computer troubles

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - A state senator who is also a family physician raised questions Wednesday about the state's privately contracted call centers that are supposed to screen applicants for social services statewide by the end of this year.

Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, asked Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins how he remains confident in the giant out- sourcing firm Accenture in the face of ongoing computer-compatibility problems.

"Accenture's getting contracts canceled," Deuell told Hawkins during a Senate Health and Human Services Commission meeting. "I've got some concerns about them doing the job. Do you share those concerns?"

200 hired on firm's dime

Hawkins replied that Accenture, which began running eligibility-screening call centers in Travis and Hays counties Jan. 20 as part of a five-year, $899 million contract, has performed sufficiently on several government contracts, specifically with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Accenture spokesman Jim McAvoy said that last year the company worked on more than 20,000 projects with more than 4,000 clients in 75 countries.

"At any point in time a very small percentage, probably less than 1 percent of our overall work, encounters problems," he added. "When we encounter problems, we work closely with clients to resolve them."

The call-center system will eventually spread statewide and has been widely criticized by state workers losing their jobs to privatization and scrutinized by social services advocates who worry that clients will be hurt by a privately run system.

"There are in the normal course of things a lot of glitches that occur that we identify on an ongoing basis," Hawkins told Deuell, adding that Accenture has hired about 200 more workers to retype screening information from its own software program into a state computer system. He said the company, not the state, is picking up the bill.

Trouble transferring data
Deuell said he's worried because state workers say Accenture's software program, Max-e, is not able to transfer data into a complex computer system the state spent years building so that eligibility of applicants could be checked for several services at once. "You state it's their problem. I think it's ours," he said, referring to e-mail a regional commission director sent to state commission staffers in Central Texas.

"I know some staff are frustrated about some issues around clients being referred to TAA (Texas Access Alliance, led by Accenture) and then bounced back," wrote HHSC's Bob Arbuckle, telling staffers to behave professionally even if they are angry about the call centers.

"We cannot continue to bounce clients around. If TAA inappropriately bounces someone back to us, we need to step in and help the client and strive for excellent customer service first," Arbuckle continued.

Deuell said he can't understand why the contractor is bouncing work back to state workers when the contractor was hired to do the job instead of state workers.

Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said Accenture is working to make its software compatible with the state's computer. "We knew this was part of the process before they ever rolled it out, to build an interface between the two," she said.

Deuell said he has no bone to pick with Accenture but added, "it ought to be working better."