Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Taking Accenture's "Success" on the Road

Today Molly Ivins (whom I am not generally a fan of) wrote:

"Naturally, in Texas, national laboratory for bad government, we do it all first and worst. We started with this dandy plan to outsource applications and enrollment for social service programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. In theory, we were to save millions - though I never could understand it myself. You see, Texas has one of the cheapest state governments on the continent, but when we hire outside contractors, they expect to make a profit. Add profit, add cost. Oh well.

So the state hired this firm based in Bermuda on an $899 million five-year contract. So far, the health and human services commissioner has been forced to ask 1,000 state employees who were scheduled to be laid off by the end of the year not to leave after all - and to offer each of them a $1,800 bonus to stay. Oops.

Among other errors, the private consortium mistakenly dropped 6,000 children from the children's health insurance program. The state comptroller says the program is "a perfect storm of wasted dollars, reduced access to services and profiteering at the expense of Texas taxpayers."

With a record like that, of course, Republicans want more outsourcing.

When she's right, she's right, even if she is a lefty. To support her point, news continues to roll in about how bad the mess is here in Texas' welfare system. Texas HHSC commissioner Albert Hawkins has received a "Dear Al..." letter from the agency that funds the Food Stamp program informing him that since HHSC did not follow the rules by getting prior approval of their new privatized call centers, and since that program does not follow federal guidelines, that Texas will be footing the bill alone, thus losing a huge amount of federal money that they were counting on as part of their plan to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Despite the incredible mess we are seeing unfold, if you can believe it, politicians in Indiana are suggesting that they privatize their welfare system too, and guess who one of the two bidders are for the contract? Accenture... the same Bermuda based company that has done such a fine job here in Texas. Privatization has it's place, but it is not the cure to all government problems... it can be a cure that is far worse than the disease.