The governor also carefully orchestrated today's announcement by putting IBM front and center while pretending the other elephant in the room, ACS, doesn't exist. Everyone familiar with this process understands that ACS will, in many instances, be performing a more critical role in this effort than IBM. ACS, of course, is FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob's immediate, former employer before joining the administration. While Gov. Daniels may choose to ignore ACS, the public should not. WISH-TV noted in a report today some serious problems with this company:
I-Team 8 took a deeper look into the companies vying for a piece of the billion dollar contract to help the state determine welfare eligibility. One company bears singling out: Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. or ACS.
Just this week, the company's top two executives resigned. An investigation into stock option prices found the two violated the company's ethics code. This summer, ACS lost a multi-million dollar contract with North Carolina to create a new Medicaid billing system. Two years into a five year contract, the state blamed ACS for missed deadlines and increased costs.
The company has also had a string of security problems. This month, a computer was stolen with sensitive information of 500,000 people who pay or receive child-support. In February, it was a stolen data tape with credit card numbers used at an airport and in August personal information of 32,000 student loan recipients was exposed on a federal website.
Throughout Daniels' press conference today, he was extremely critical of FSSA's past performance in delivering welfare services. "Fraud", "rip-off", and "errors" were often used by the governor to describe FSSA's performance. Yet, his own administration has been in charge of the agency for nearly two years. What has it done to improve the situation? Is privatizing or handing the problems over to an outsider the only viable solution to cleaning up the "mess" he sees at FSSA? Did the governor consider the alleged "fraud" the top two leaders of ACS are accused of committing on its own company's shareholders? Did he consider the company's string of security problems over the past year? Did he consider the company's ability to perform the work as evidenced by its performance in other states?
It just seems to me to be somewhat hypocritical of the governor to speak so dismissively of FSSA workers while handing the keys to the office over to a company with a checkered past itself. And at the same time, he assures these workers that none of them will be permanently displaced by the massive outsourcing project. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I just don't get it. I think privatization makes a lot of sense in some areas of government. FSSA has for years outsourced Medicaid claims processing to EDS. This made a lot of sense and has been good for taxpayers, clients and providers. The governor complains that the agency's welfare-to-work achievements are unacceptable. Yet, the agency relied on private contractors for years to deliver these services.
When a change this big is made, it is incumbent upon our government leaders to explain their rationale for the change and make their case through a give-and-take public process. This hasn't been done by the Daniels' administration at all in this process. The administration will put on one public hearing next week to tell us what it long ago decided it was going to do. Why bother? The administration clearly thinks it knows what's best for all of us, so lets just sit back and enjoy the ride--wherever it takes us.