Rep. Serpa Demands Raimondo Intervene in Botched UHIP Rollout

Thursday, November 03, 2016


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Representative Patricia Serpa

House Oversight Chairwoman Patricia Serpa is calling on Governor Gina Raimondo to intervene in the rollout of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP). The project was plagued with glitches for the second month in a row. 

“After being told by the project administrators that this is their highest priority, once again we’re seeing that the project is riddled with problems that are having an adverse effect on the lives of thousands of Rhode Islanders,” said Representative Serpa.

The $364 million UHIP is a statewide computer system that replaces and unifies numerous aged computer systems across the state's human services agencies, with the goals of modernization, information sharing and efficiency. The program has faced criticism for changes in size and scope over the years. 

UHIP Glitches 

After the first month of computer glitches that missed payments for 29.000 Supplemental Security Income recipients, and Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program benefits that were not dispersed, Serpa called a joint meeting of the House Oversight Committee and House Finance Committee with its Chairman Rep. Marvin Abney. 

“Back in 2012, the General Assembly created the Office of Digital Excellence to expand and improve the quality of services provided to Rhode Island citizens through the incorporation of innovation and modern digital capabilities. Yet every project involving a new computer system in this state has been an unmitigated disaster. In fact, if you go to the Office of Digital Excellence website, all you’ll see is the sentence, ‘We’re working on it.’ I think those have become the watchwords of the state’s computer system,” said Representative Serpa. 

Along with the UHIP rollout, Rhode Island has had setbacks with other computer projects, including the Rhode Island Motor Vehicle System and the State Tax Revenue and Administration System. Last week it was reported that 14,000 Rhode Islanders had not received their 2016 income tax refunds and weren't expected to until December. 

“We were told at the beginning of June that all refunds would be paid by mid-July.Well, it’s now the end of October and a lot of people are still waiting. This goes beyond embarrassment and inconvenience. Between the tax refunds and the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, our most vulnerable citizens — children, the elderly, the disabled, the needy — are being left without support,” said Representative Serpa. 

At the end of the hearing investigating the UHIP rollout, Rep. Serpa demanded weekly reports on the status of the project from the three officials and promised that there will be additional accountability hearings in the future. 


Related Slideshow: 5 Economic Projects - Can Raimondo Get Them Done?

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#5 Wexford-CV Properties

The Raimondo administration continues to work with the 195 Commission to seal the deal with the Baltimore-based Wexford Science and Technology for development of prime real estate on the former highway land.  While a proposal was made back in June for a mixed-use project, the negotiations between the state and the life sciences have been mostly behind the scenes, with a key vote taken on the proposal taking place Monday night -- in closed session.  

"It is important to note that a P&S while an important milestone, is still just a step in the development process," said Commission spokesperson Dyana Koelsch.  You can see the plan as presented on the Jewelry District's website HERE.   Will we see shovels shortly?

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#4 General Electric

Reports that the Connecticut giant is eyeing a move elsewhere — with Rhode Island on that short list — has many a Ocean Stater excited at the possibility.  The Boston Globe not surprisingly made the case that their state should top the list (taking a dig at the others), saying that the "Boston area is on the short list of contenders for the headquarters and its 800 people, as GE’s search focuses on high-cost states in the Northeast. In relation to those states, Massachusetts compares favorably on its business tax climate."

However a Connecticut State Rep told the Hartford Courant a month earlier that Rhode Island as an option “wouldn’t surprise him.” Said State Rep John Frey in November, “It's been expressed to me by a couple of people at GE that they've been impressed by what the governor has done with state employee liabilities." To say a GE coup by Raimondo would be monumental for Rhode Island would be an understatement.

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#3 Citizens' Campus

The Rhode Island-based banking powerhouse has indicated that is looking for a vacant location state as a potential new campus for 4,000 + of its employees — while maintaining its headquarters downtown at One Citizens Plaza.  There is little indication at this time however of consideration of a vacant parcel of prime Providence real estate just to its HQ's south (that being the Industrial National Bank “Superman” building); the bank is indicating that keeping its support facility in Cranston is still an option.  

“The lease for our service and support facility in Cranston expires in 2018. We are exploring several opportunities ranging from renewal to potentially consolidating some of our staff and back office functions at a new location in Rhode Island," said Citizens spokesperson Jim Hughes.  Watch to see how Citizens moves forward -- and what, if any, role Raimondo has in the process -- and outcome.

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#2 Superman Building

The arguably most iconic building in Providence — and Rhode Island’s - skyline lost its last tenant in 2013, and a year later an appraiser deemed it to have “zero value.”  A failed effort to utilized tax credits and public investment by High Rock Development has left watchers asking if and when anything is going to move into the historic (if slightly aging) building.

Former Mayor and real estate developer Joseph Paolino, who has been a vocal supporter of trying to get Citizens Bank into Superman, told GoLocal, “I think the biggest problem [in the city] is Superman, because it depresses everything around it. Paolino, who bought three properties nearby downtown back in 2014 — said the revelation that the Industrial National Bank building was empty had cost him a mortgage with a major lender.

Whether there is an opportunity for a Citizens Bank move, or a new developer to re-package a viable mixed-use proposal, if the Superman building is still empty in several years' time, that is not a win for anyone -- not the city, not the state, and not the Governor.

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#1 195 Rollout

When Raimondo took office, she understandably made a number of changes on the 195 Commission. A tax stabilization agreement (TSA) structure was finalized this past summer, and the Commission has the Wexford biotech proposal moving forward — but how much more development, and how soon, will the Raimondo administration be able to accomplish what it pledged it would do?

Raimondo called for the 195 land to be a manufacturing hub during her campaign — and while year one might have been setting the stage, the next years are critical for the state — and Governor.  Will she usher through her proposed Innovation Institute?  


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