Rhode Island Believes In Second Chances, Even for Deloitte

Back in January 2017, Caleb made mention that Rhode Island was pissed at Deloitte because, when the state rolled out a new computer system in September 2016 that the firm designed, it had more bugs in it than a Florida swamp.

The computer system—known as the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP)—was supposed to streamline benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and child-care assistance, for hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders.

Instead, UHIP was a complete disaster: residents reported missing benefits, hours-long call wait times to the state’s Department of Human Services, and long lines at DHS field offices, among other problems.

And two and a half years later, Deloitte continues to work on improvements to UHIP because the system still isn’t working the way it should.

Because Deloitte gave them a piece of crap computer system, Rhode Island has not paid the firm since the failed rollout, according to the Providence Journal.

At the time, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo called UHIP “disappointing, it’s been frustrating, and it’s been unacceptable.”

Deloitte apologized publicly to Rhode Island lawmakers for the UHIP fiasco last April, saying it would have probably been a better idea to pilot the system first before flipping the switch to make it go live.

“We fully realize that our public sector work impacts the lives of individuals and families, often when they are most vulnerable,” said Deborah Sills, of Deloitte Consulting’s public sector practice. “We are very sorry for the impact that our system issues have had on your constituents, on state workers, and on service providers.”

So when Deloitte’s contract with Rhode Island was about to expire at the end of March, Raimondo was faced with the decision on whether to renew it or not. She did, because Rhode Island would be better off financially sticking with Deloitte, according the Providence Journal.

Under terms made public on [March 15]:

*The state would extend the contract — which expires at the end of March — until June 2021, and agree not to sue Deloitte for past problems with UHIP.

*The state would start paying Deloitte again in 2020 an estimated $8.5 million, and then $27 million the following year.

*Deloitte would, in turn, agree to discount its previously agreed-to rates by an estimated $75 million during the extended contract period, cover any fines that may still be outstanding, and pay $50 million to the state in about two and a half months, assuming the two federal agencies that oversee and finance the state’s public-assistance programs give their approval.

Given that Deloitte has already provided $87 million in “credits″ to the state, plus the $75 million in estimated “discounts” going forward and the $50 million cash payment, that adds up to a total of nearly $212 million in concessions by Deloitte to Rhode Island, according to the Providence Journal.

“I have been on this almost weekly for two years,″ [Raimondo] said. “Every decision I made — Should we sue Deloitte? Should we not? Should we settle? Should we keep them on? Should we get a different vendor? — I’ve made through the lens of: What is the right thing for taxpayers, and what is the right thing for the people of Rhode Island, and what is the best outcome for the vulnerable Rhode Islanders who need this system?

“I’ve been very critical of Deloitte all along, as you know,” she told news reporters. “I came to this based on not what was easy or politically expedient or what felt good. Sometimes suing someone feels good [but] then you’re tied up in expensive litigation for years.”

In a March 21 editorial, the Providence Journal wrote that Rhode Islanders are pretty much caught in a rock and a hard place due to the state’s new deal with Deloitte:

It’s hard for a non-expert to know what to make of this deal. The state’s original contract for the system, under Gov. Lincoln Chafee, was so poorly worded that it appears Rhode Island would have had very little chance of successfully suing Deloitte, in any event. Better to get millions of dollars than nothing at all.

The strongest leverage Rhode Island seemed to have is that Deloitte does not want to gain a national reputation for foisting an appallingly expensive lemon on the nation’s smallest state.

There’s not much else to do at this point but earnestly pray that the UHIP system will function reasonably well after this deal with Deloitte expires.

Deloitte has found itself in hot water after other government projects, most notably in Massachusetts and Marin County in California. So, given the Green Dot’s not-so-stellar track record in government projects, Rhode Islanders should pray really, really hard that their governor didn’t make a huge mistake by renewing the state’s contract with Deloitte.

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