Friday, May 26, 2006

Texas might penalize welfare plan contractor

Texas might penalize welfare plan contractor

Web Posted: 05/26/2006 12:00 AM CDT

Guillermo Garcia
Express-News Staff Writer

The state is considering financial sanctions against a contractor that is key to privatizing the screening of welfare applications, a senior health and human services official said Thursday.
A host of computer problems and poor training of contractor employees, resulting in misinformation to applicants and improperly filled out forms, has caused Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins to indefinitely postpone the plan.
In addition, Hawkins has canceled the planned furlough of thousands of state workers and relieved the contractor of some of its duties.
It is not clear how much the state is considering penalizing Bermuda-based Accenture LLP, with which it signed a five-year, $889 million contract last summer.
It marks the first time the state has said publicly that its dissatisfaction with the contractor's performance may draw sanctions.
The firm did not return calls seeking comment.
Anne Heiligenstein, deputy executive commissioner for social services, said the agency is reviewing options for recovering unexpected costs and delays in its Integrated Eligibility system, which determines who qualifies for food stamps and the Children's Health Insurance Program, among others.
But if the commission decides to impose financial sanctions, it could be months before a specific dollar figure is negotiated.
The eligibility program was scheduled to roll out statewide later this year after an initial pilot program in Austin and San Marcos.
The new process was to have debuted in San Antonio this summer but was suspended after state officials raised concerns about Accenture.
The rollout delay will likely negate some of the $646 million the commission told the Legislature it expected to save by outsourcing to the company.

No comments: