The Federal Government has cut off funding for a massive and long-troubled project aimed at upgrading the system by which Texans make child-support payments. Federal funding makes up two-thirds of the project’s budget. The lifting of the funding freeze is contingent on the state submitting a Corrective Action Plan and updated project schedule that is acceptable to federal officials. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has dismissed 11 technology contractors amid delays in upgrading the state’s child-support data system.
The shakeup of this white elephant comes as state House members are set to begin an investigation into how the costs for a project known as T2 climbed to $310 million. Initial estimates said the project would cost just over $202 million. The project was intended to streamline the data system used to process child-support payments and support investigations.
The dismissals come after reports of failures by state officials and vendor, Accenture, to deliver promised work on time. A spokes for the company said that Accenture is receiving only $79 million and has won multiple awards for its work.
The project started in 2009. The child support division at the attorney general’s office handles more than 1.5 million cases and collects more than $3.5 billion per year, but relies on paper case files, lacks real-time data, is difficult to research, and requires time-consuming workarounds without any centralized security infrastructure to manage access to information.
Hurting for money
The child-support project has drawn criticism because it employs 100 people based in India (getting around US employment law and wages). Paxton’s office said it was hopeful but somewhat uncertain about the future.
“We are currently seeking clarification with (federal officials) regarding the scope and duration of the temporary suspension,” Wise said, “and we anticipate (they’ll) review our responses and release the suspension as soon as they possibly can.”
Texas Plays Dumb
While the future of the eight-year, $310 million project is in the air, the Attorney General’s office insisted it was “nearly finished” with the Corrective Action Plan. It claims to be working with federal officials and the contractor chosen to lead the effort. Paxton was clueless as to why the project was costing more than expected.
The issues have ballooned the costs by more than 50 percent, from an initial estimate of $203 million to the current estimate of $310 million. The project is now expected to have completion delayed in 2017.
Although cost-overruns are not infrequent in state government, the project has drawn special scrutiny because of its size, the nature of the work and the contractor, Accenture, which has had a series of blunders on other major technology contracts. Bad choice Texas – all at taxpayer expense. There’s a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”