EDITORIAL: The State of RI’s Technology Does Not Work. Let’s Fix It.

Monday, November 14, 2016

 

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Presently, many of RI’s most important technology infrastructures don’t work. Some days you can’t register your car.  For far too many on Election Day, voting was absurdly slow, violated basic procedures, and bordered on incompetence. As repeatedly reported, the UHIP (nearing) $500 million health benefits system is deeply flawed.

Moreover, it seems as if the state administrators who have the responsibility for managing these systems and to upgrade them are ill-equipped. They lack the specific technology expertise, they have no relevant education, and they themselves are neophytes when it comes to basic technology.

Between the state’s financial commitments to UHIP, HealthSource, Department of Motor Vehicles, and voting technology, Rhode Island has invested close to a billion dollars. And almost all of these dollars have gone to out-of-state concerns.

Rhode Island needs a technology transformation in government consisting of three components.

First, Rhode Island needs to elevate the importance of its in-house technology infrastructure and management. Rhode Island needs to appoint a State Chief Technology Officer and that individual should be a cabinet level position. 

Second, Rhode Island needs to change its procurement laws. The state is one of just five states that does not give in-state companies weighting when bidding for state work. So despite spending more than hundreds of millions in technology development, few of those dollars went to Rhode Island companies to develop the technology industry or create jobs. Ironically, the major tech contracts state government has engaged in is with gaming concern IGT (formerly GTECH).

Third, the public benefits of separation of powers was sold as having the impact of removing legislators from board and commissions, but there was another important benefit too -- having the legislature oversee actions by the executive branch. It was refreshing to see the House Oversight Committee review the failures of UHIP and one should hope the hearing was not election year theatrics, but will be the norm.  

In May, Thom Guertin, the state’s chief information officer and chief digital officer told a government tech publication that the “state’s recent focus on private sector technology strategies, like agile development, is changing IT in the state.”

Previous to coming to the state of Rhode Island, Guertin served on the tech staff at the Boston Globe — not exactly a bastion of cutting edge technology infrastructure.

It is difficult to ask Guertin about the collection of technology failures as he has repeatedly refused to respond to press questions (or has not been allowed to do so).

With hundreds of millions and basic services at risk it is now time to do a forced-quit and restart of how Rhode Island manages and invests in technology. Could we do worse?

 

Related Slideshow: RI Leaders’ Questions for October 20 Hearing on “Botched” UHIP Rollout

RI Leaders' Questions for October 20 Hearing on "Botched" UHIP Rollout

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#5

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa

A description of what the key milestones were for testing including what the acceptable failure rate would have been.

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#9

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

A detailed list of every type of error that Bridges has incurred that impacted a beneficiary or a provider. How many of each type has occurred?

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#26

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

Did EOHSS conduct a risk-analysis of how the rollout might impact some of RI’s most vulnerable people?

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#25

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

When were the Governor and Speaker aware of detailed federal reports that spelled out real-life problems for thousands of citizens dependent on public assistance?

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#32

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

The state has received penalties and fines for poor performance in entitlement programs in the past — what jeopardy does this faulty roll-out subject our state’s taxpayers to?

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#35

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

What training was given to make sure they knew how to perform the necessary task within the next system? Who was in charge of training the staff?

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#1

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

All independent verification and validation reports (IV&V) for the project, especially any provided to the administration or DHS within the last year.

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#2

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Any correspondence from Deloitte that addresses the readiness — or lack of readiness — of the system to go live in July then in September.  This should include all discussions of the outstanding problems.

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#3

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Numbers that demonstrate by DHS field office, how many clients submitted applications, how many were initiated, how many were completed - prior to the switch to Bridges and then for the month it’s been operating. This data should be provided by day, week, and month for July, August, September, and October.

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#4

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Results of the UAT (User Acceptance Testing) testing for Bridges — I would like to know how many times they conducted testing and, at a minimum, the score cards if not the scenarios they used to test it.

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#6

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

A list of the different programs incorporate (SNAP/TANT/etc) and their current error rate.

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#7

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

A description of how Deloitte staffers are being used in field offices to support DHS staff as well as a description of how they are being paid (e.g. overtime).

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#8

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Precise numbers on how many existing clients didn’t receive any benefits, how many received some but now they were entitle to, and how many received incorrect payments.

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#10

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

How many providers (day care centers, mental health centers, etc) did not receive payments when they were accustomed to receiving them after Bridges went live?

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#11

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Reports generated by HealthSource for the last 6 months on errors and problems and then the most current report that details the problems to see how HealthSource is being impacted by UHIP Phase 2, also called Bridges.

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#12

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

A description of what the testing scenario the feds recommend, a description of the testing scenario used and an explanation as to why we varied from the one the feds recommended.

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#13

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Feasibility study regarding child support being integrated into UHIP.

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#14

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa

The latest IAPD that was submitted by OHHS/DHS.

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#15

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

Data from the dashboard that shows information regarding number of transactions completed, number pending some action, error rate, etc. in the system.

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#16

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

The most current report used by Deloitte that lists the “glitches” that need to be addressed and fixed.

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#17

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa

The average wait times for clients at each DHS office.

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#18

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa

The average number of times clients have had to come in to DHS problems since October 1.

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#19

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

The number of open tickets Deloitte has right now for Bridges. This should include software bugs as well as tickets with requests to fix data.

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#20

From House Finance Chair, Representative Marvin Abney and House Oversight Chair, Representative Patricia Serpa:

How many Deloitte tickets have been issued since October 1 requiring Deloitte to address a specific data issue or application issue for a specific client? How many of these are outstanding right now?

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#21

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

Who bears the responsibility for the UHIP budget sky-rocketing out of control?  The initial estimate set the UHIP cost at $135 million prior to the Chafee Administration adjusting the budget to $209 million, these projections are a long way from the report reported cost of $364 million.

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#22

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

As the UHIP budget ballooned, what process was employed and who authorized change orders and contract revisions?

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#23

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

What due diligence did the State undertake in awarding the UHIP contract to Deloitte — was there a competitive bidding process, and if not why?

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#24

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

Why didn’t the Governor follow a prudent approach of directing EOHHS to conduct pilot tests and implement UHIP in appropriate phases? 

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#27

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

What should the General Assembly do to more effectively conduct oversight so problems can be identified before they become financial snafus?

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#28

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

What and when did the Governor know about budget overruns and the botched UHIP rollout, and what corrective action did she underage and who is she holding responsible?

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#29

From RI GOP Chairman, Brandon Bell:

What value-added benefit will RI taxpayers receive from the $364 million investment in UHIP? 

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#30

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

Who made the decision to launch the program over the objection of the NFS?

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#31

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

It appears a full pilot wasn’t performed — what was the rationale, the evidence the program was ready?

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#33

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

How many citizens have been negatively impacted by the flawed rollout — what costs have they incurred (leaving work and school, or having to pay out of pocket)?

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#34

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

What costs have RI taxpayers incurred in overtime, extra personnel costs, etc?  Will they be picked up by Deloitte?

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#36

From House Finance Committee Member, Representative Patricia Morgan:

Are there hardware as well as software issues?

 
 

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