The Topeka Capital-Journal, May 13
Invest in state workers not privatization
With the Legislature not even out of session one full week, the Colyer administration unveiled its plan to lay off more than 50 information technology employees in order to accommodate a transition to a $50-million, 10-year no-bid contract with Canada’s CGI Co. for the purpose of developing and operating a new tax management computer system. The layoffs aren’t immediate. The technical services deal with CGI indicates at least some of the state’s employees will work side-by-side with CGI consultants between now and their dismissal in August.
This could be why Department of Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said morale in the IT Department “sucks right now.” It is hard to get excited about coming to work to train someone to take your job knowing you’ll soon be unemployed.
There are a lot of reasons to be concerned with this plan beyond the obvious questions about the security of our tax information, the logic behind a $50 million, no-bid contract, and the loss of more than 50 information technology employees.
CGI is not subject to open records requests. It doesn’t have a legal obligation like the state’s revenue department to share information. It isn’t accountable to taxpayers in the same way as the Department of Revenue. Every move to privatize government services takes the public one step further from accountability of its tax dollars.
History should make all of us nervous about this transition. Remember the KEES system that was supposed to streamline Medicaid applications and create a better system? It was plagued with operating problems and cost overruns and only after six years of trying to address the issues is it now fully implemented. Not only did it not produce the $300 million dollars in savings used to justify the transition, but it cost the state millions more to develop than was planned.
Then there’s the KanLicense program which a 2017 legislative audit found to be in “caution” status, meaning the “project does not meet several state laws, policies or guidelines, has deviations or unrealistic milestones in scope, schedule, cost, or quality, or has weak or insufficient mitigation plans for known issues which could result in project failure.”
At the time of the KanLicense audit, the contractor had not met several deliverables, but said it would be ready in January. It’s May and it still hasn’t delivered....And now the administration is telling us we lack the talent in the Kansas Department of Revenue to handle software upgrades and need to embrace this unvetted contract. Yet the announcement comes days after the Legislature adjourns and is not in a position to ask questions or receive information briefings on the merits for this project.There were no checks and balances, leaving Kansans to hope their most private, privileged information remains secure. What happens if the contract fails and CGI can’t deliver, as we’ve seen happen with other privatization