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Lawmaker Responds After 2WTK NC FAST Investigation

10:22 AM, Nov 14, 2013   |    comments
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- State Senator Mike Woodard is demanding answers from the Department of Health and Human Services after 2 Wants To Know uncovered new information about the company hired to set up the agency's new computer program called NC FAST.

2 Wants To Know dug into the track record of Accenture. It turns out other states gave the company negative reviews. Across the country negative remarks pop up from Colorado to New York - even from the Canadian government.  

READ: Food Stamp Program Company Had Bad Reviews

An Accenture spokesperson declined an on-camera interview, but e-mailed: "These claims you reference about our work in other places are not an accurate representation of Accenture or our work with these clients."

2 Wants To Know obtained internal DHHS documents from the hiring committee. Accenture's references gave the company an eight out of 10.  Who gave Accenture the positive reviews? The state refuses to say. Instead it emailed: "Accenture was selected under a competitive bid process by the previous administration. We do not have any further comment."

Senator Woodard says that no comment is not good enough.

"It's disappointing that we're not seeing total transparency on this," he said. "These are taxpayer dollars, and to sort of hide behind no information, no comment is not acceptable to me. I would call on DHHS to be forthcoming about this."

Here's more about the claims from other places 2 Wants To Know uncovered:

Fly back in time to a 2007 Wisconsin legislative hearing on a failed voter registration system.

"Accenture can't program it's way out of a paper bag," said Beverly Speer of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

That was three years before North Carolina hired Accenture - a technology and management consulting firm.

In 2006, The chief public accountant in Texas said Accenture was $100 million over budget on a "failed" health insurance program.

Another from D.C. where a lawsuit claimed Accenture "received kickbacks" on government contracts, and "fraudulently inflated prices."

And in Canada - where an auditor called working with Accenture "a very expensive lesson in how not to implement a new IT-based service."

Accenture was the only company to bid on the project. You usually have more than one choice on a multi-million dollar project. Again, the state calls it a competitive process. 

UPDATED 11/14: After 2 Wants To Know's story ran, a spokesperson for Accenture requested we post their entire statement:

Dear Mr. Briscoe:

I appreciate the opportunity to respond regarding the engagements you listed in your email. 

For any questions regarding our work and selection for the NC FAST project, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services handles all media inquiries about that project and you can contact their media line on 919-855-4840.

These claims you reference about our work in other places are not an accurate representation of Accenture or our work with these clients.

Accenture is among the most respected firms in the consulting and technology services industry.  At any given point in time, Accenture is working on thousands of projects with clients around the world. In fiscal year 2012 we were involved with more than 4,000 clients in 120 countries including more than 80 of the Fortune 100.

Large scale IT projects are complex in nature, and sometimes will encounter challenges. That is why large IT projects have production plans with various levels of testing and pilots and phased rollouts - to proactively identify and address issues as they arise. What is most important is that Accenture is known for collaborating closely with clients when they need to make these changes and adjustments.

As we pointed out in our response to POGO that can be found here: http://www.contractormisconduct.org/ass/contractors/5/letters/236/accenture.pdf, Accenture and the State of Colorado mutually agreed to terminate both contracts.

On the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment project known as Genesis, Accenture completed over 70% of the work despite numerous challenges. The original contract signed in 2002 was amended six times to meet the state's changing requirements. The $8.2 million refunded to the state was for work performed on a partially completed subsystem.

On the Colorado Voter Registration contract, it is inaccurate to say that the Colorado Secretary of State determined our system to be "unreliable." Accenture delivered a new release of the voter registration application within a timeframe that would've allowed Colorado to meet the HAVA deadline but it was never downloaded and tested by the state.

Regarding the Marine Corps global supply chain contract, here are the facts. In January 2006, the Marine Corps partially terminated Accenture's contract for cause. However, the USMC rescinded the termination for cause, modified the contract in scope, and elected not to exercise the Contract's build, test and deploy option.

On the Texas project you refer to, Accenture and the State of Texas mutually agreed to terminate the contract after two years of work. The claim by the then-Comptroller that the project was $100 million over budget was not accurate, and Accenture has in fact successfully worked for many Texas agencies over the past several decades.

Additionally you asked about engagements in NY, Ontario, Wyoming and Connecticut.

The New York CONNECTIONS system remains in full statewide operation more than 17 years after its initial installation supporting more than 15,000 caseworkers.  The statewide integrated system improved the way child welfare cases are recorded and managed, screening of potential foster care parents for prior history of abuse and provided for a quicker follow-up on reports of child abuse/neglect. Accenture fulfilled all the contractual obligations to the state, and received a letter of recommendation from the state's project director at the conclusion of the contract.

In 1997, the Ministry in Ontario engaged Accenture to jointly develop a comprehensive redesign of social assistance program system aimed at improving services, reducing caseloads and operating more cost-effectively. Over the life of the project the system will achieve $200 million in annual savings for Ontario and a 222% return on its systems investment (Hickling, Lewis and Brod audit, 2/99).  The system permanently replaced an outdated delivery system with cost-effective, leading-edge technology and techniques, and an automated telephone system capable of serving 1.5 million callers annually.

In Wyoming, when it became apparent the new voter system would not be ready for the 2006 election, Secretary of State Joe Meyer announced to the media that he and Accenture had agreed to "unwind" the contract.   Meyer told the Associated Press the county clerks asked for too many additional features for the system and "We've just run out of time to get it ready for the 2006 election."

In Connecticut, Accenture was not responsible for the security of the Ohio server or for the backup procedures.  Accenture expressed regret over the accidental and unauthorized movement of data to Ohio's secure server, and emphasized the seriousness with which it holds the responsibility to safeguard clients' data.

Lastly, with regard to the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Accenture continues to vigorously deny any wrongdoing.  We remain confident our agreements and dealings with our alliance partners, vendors and the government were appropriate and lawful.  The agreement to settle is not an admission of liability by Accenture.  However, to avoid the additional time, inconvenience and expense that comes with protracted litigation, we agreed to a settlement. The settlement has not and will not restrict Accenture's current or future business with the U.S. federal government, including serving the Department of Justice.

I appreciate your consideration in clarifying or correcting your descriptions in light of these facts.

Sincerely,

Joe Dickie

Accenture


Amended 11/13/13 to include information on Wisconsin in response to the report that aired 11/12/13.

In Wisconsin, WI Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS), Accenture started from a point in November 2004 where most Wisconsin municipalities maintained no voter records.

Accenture developed a system that has been successfully used in dozens of local and statewide elections. Over 3.5 million voters were registered in the system prior to the November 2008 election. Accenture ended its work on the SVRS in 2008 and licensed the source code to the state.

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