Category Archives: Information.Technology

Is Privatization on Its Way Out?

Source: Donald Cohen, HuffPost, July 27, 2017

According to a new report by the Transnational Institute, cities across Europe are increasingly deciding to reclaim public goods like water, energy, and health care from corporations and private investors. For example, fourteen cities in the Catalonia region of Spain have brought their water under public control in the past two years alone. … As always, the movement is starting at the bottom.  There’s Milford, Connecticut, a small city pushing to purchase its water system after learning that the corporation that owns it plans to raise rates by nearly 30 percent.  There’s New York, which just brought back state workers to provide IT help desk services after concerns about rising costs in a contract with IBM.  There’s Atlantic City, New Jersey, which earlier this month passed an ordinance to ensure residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  There’s Baltimore, Maryland, where teachers just recruited hundreds of new public school students after weeks of knocking on doors. And Miami, Florida, where parents and teachers rallied over the weekend to demand more funding for public education and regulation of charter schools.

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State workers to return to help desk jobs that had been outsourced

Source: Rick Karlin, Times Union, July 21, 2017
 
Less than a year after it started, the state Office for Information Technology Services is backing away from the outsourcing of its help desk, and will be once again have state workers assume many of those responsibilities. Soon after it began last fall, representatives of numerous state agencies complained they couldn’t get through to the newly privatized help desks, which were based in Buffalo but were backed up in Boulder, Colo. There had also been worries about the cost of the outsourcing. …  The agency said it will continue to work with its main outsourcing contractor, IBM, but state employees will provide on-site assistance at the various state agencies. The process will begin this month in the Capital Region. …

Maryland Judiciary fails to monitor contracts, audit finds

Source: Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun, May 10, 2017

Maryland’s court system has failed for years to properly monitor how it spent tens of millions of dollars in contracts and lacked adequate oversight to prove it was getting the most cost-effective deals for taxpayers, a state audit released Friday has found. The Maryland Judiciary lacked “sufficient documentation” to support four contract awards totaling $26 million between July 1, 2012, and Dec. 20, 2015, the audit reported. … Auditors said the judiciary did not provide adequate cost-benefit analyses to support the award of two contracts to existing vendors: a five-year, $21 million contract for Internet services, and a four-year, $2.1 million contract for a digital recording system. In the latter contract, there was a competing bid for almost two-thirds less, $736,000, according to the audit. Additionally, the judiciary didn’t save information about the losing bidders’ proposals for three contracts totaling about $5 million. … The audit also raised concerns about the number of staff allowed to access the purchasing and payment system; the security of its financial management system and database; the processing of traffic citations; and the controls over its equipment and warehouses. … The findings come as the Maryland Judiciary is beginning to prepare a report requested by the Department of Legislative Services to explain “the apparent pattern of overbudgeting” for the state’s Clerks of the Circuit Court offices, according to budget analysis documents. Between 2012 and 2016 the clerks offices were allocated up to 9 percent more than they spent, a surplus that funded other efforts “without the opportunity for the General Assembly to vet those purposes,” according to the legislative services analysis. …

Ohio’s spending on private IT contracts balloons under Kasich

Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, May 14, 2017 

State spending on information-technology consultants, contractual employees and other private services has ballooned to $452 million a year, while the number of generally less-expensive state IT employees has dropped.  As part of a preliminary inquiry into no-bid contracts uncovered by The Dispatch, the office of Ohio Auditor Dave Yost reports that spending on IT “personal services” has more than doubled from $207 million in 2011-12. … A Dispatch investigation published last month revealed that Administrative Services officials overrode the concerns — both legal and financial — of agency purchasing analysts to award millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, including to a company employing former state IT executives. Supervisors deny disregarding the agency’s purchasing policy and sidestepping the protocol of the state Controlling Board, a bipartisan group that approves major state outlays. The House-passed state budget includes language authored by Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, requiring state officials to seek bids on all IT consultants and purchases. The provision also would require such contracts to be submitted to the Controlling Board for its approval.

Palantir Will Pay $1.6 Million In Back Wages In A Discrimination Suit

Source: Cora Lewis, Buzzfeed News, April 25, 2017

On Friday, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) entered into a consent decree with Palantir Technologies — the software and data company whose clients include government agencies and private companies — to resolve charges of systemic hiring discrimination at the company’s Palo Alto facility. The decree, under which Palantir admits no liability, settles allegations that the company discriminated against Asian applicants in the hiring and selection process for engineering jobs. Palantir will pay $1,659,434 in back wages and other relief — including stock options — to the affected class and extend job offers to eight class members. …

Google ‘taken aback’ by inequality accusations, says it’s confident there’s no gender pay gap

Source: Karen Gilchrist, CNBC, April 11, 2017

Google has refuted claims that it systematically underpays female employees by reiterating its gender “blind” approach to remuneration calculations.  In a blogpost on Tuesday by Google’s vice-president of people operations, Eileen Naughton highlighted the technology giant’s commitment to “extremely scientific and robust” annual analyses to help calculate fair salaries. The model, first outlined last year, takes into account role, job level, job location and performance ratings, but is blind to gender – and, as of recently, race.  The comments come days after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) alleges that the company allows “systematic compensation disparities against women”. In a court hearing held Friday, DOL Regional Director Janette Wipper said the agency had received “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.” …

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Google accused of ‘extreme’ gender pay discrimination by US labor department
Source: Sam Levin, The Guardian, April 7, 2017

Google has discriminated against its female employees, according to the US Department of Labor (DoL), which said it had evidence of “systemic compensation disparities”. As part of an ongoing DoL investigation, the government has collected information that suggests the internet search giant is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for women, agency officials said. … The explosive allegation against one of the largest and most powerful companies in Silicon Valley comes at a time when the male-dominated tech industry is facing increased scrutiny over gender discrimination, pay disparities and sexual harassment. Google is a federal contractor, which means it is required to allow the DoL to inspect and copy records and information about its its compliance with equal opportunity laws. Last year, the department’s office of federal contract compliance programs requested job and salary history for Google employees, along with names and contact information, as part of the compliance review. Google, however, repeatedly refused to hand over the data, which was a violation of its contractual obligations with the federal government, according to the DoL’s lawsuit.

… Google is not the first tech company to face legal action from the labor department over employment practices. In September, the DoL filed a lawsuit against Palantir, the Palo Alto data analytics company, alleging it systematically discriminated against Asian job applicants in its hiring process. … In January, the department sued Oracle, another large tech company, claiming it paid white men more than others, leading to pay discrimination against women and black and Asian employees. … In the Google case, the labor department’s lawyers have asked the court to cancel all of the company’s federal contracts and block any future business with the government if it continues to refuse to comply with the audit. …

School district to retain IT department

Source: Joe Cannon, The Sentinel, March 24, 2017

Information technology services will remain in house in the Mifflin County School District following action taken Thursday by the district’s board of directors. Several members of the IT department were present at Thursday’s meeting to urge the board not to outsource IT services to a company that proposed to do so during the board’s February meeting. IT Director Kevin Cunningham and several of his colleagues gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the advantages of keeping the department within the district. … Cunningham noted the company proposing to do the service, Questeq, a Coraopolis firm that provides outsourced education technology management services to school districts, alluded to the fact that the in-house department doesn’t have the resources to reach out properly. … Cunningham said outsourcing would allow the district to lose ownership in equipment, personnel decisions and hours worked. …

Lawsuit goes after state computer contractors for unemployment insurance flap

Source: Emily Lawler, MLive, March 8, 2017

Michiganders who say they were falsely flagged for unemployment fraud by the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency computer system are going after the state contractors who provided the technology in a federal lawsuit. … From Oct. 2013 through Aug. 2015, a state computer system flagged people for fraudulent unemployment claims. In some cases it sent a message to an online unemployment account they’d stopped using long ago, and then automatically found people guilty when they did not reply and assessed 400 percent fines. The UIA is currently reviewing 50,000 potential cases of fraud flagged during that time period. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, is going after the computer companies behind the computer technology that flagged and automatically determined people had committed fraud. It names three vendors involved with the UIA’s computer system: FAST Enterprises, SAS Analytics and CSG Government Solutions. The suit claims those state vendors violated the 4th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution and parts of the state constitution as well. … People who were determined to have received overpayments were required to pay back the amount plus a 400 percent penalty. … Two of the companies named in the suit still have active contracts with the state to service its unemployment agency. FAST Enterprises has a $47 million contract to modernize UIA computer systems and SAS Analytics has a $14.2 million contract for fraud detection at the UIA and the Food Assistance Program. …

Pennsylvania Just Sued IBM Over an Allegedly Botched $100 Million Project

Source: Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, March 10, 2017

The state of Pennsylvania is suing IBM. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration said this week that it filed a lawsuit against the business technology giant over allegations that IBM failed to live up to a contract to update the state’s unemployment claims system. The allegedly botched project dates back to 2006 when the state hired IBM to replace its old unemployment payment technology, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pennsylvania said that IBM was supposed to finish the $109.9 million project by Feb. 2010, but that the work stalled. Ultimately, Pennsylvania decided to let its contract with IBM expire in Sept. 2013. By that time, the project was “45 months behind schedule and $60 million over budget,” the statement says. … “All told, Pennsylvania taxpayers paid IBM nearly $170 million for what was supposed to be a comprehensive, integrated, and modern system that it never got,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. He added that the Department of Labor and Industry has instead been forced to maintain its unemployment payment system “through a collection of aging, costly legacy systems, incurring tens of millions of dollars in server, support and maintenance costs.” … One reason for IBM’s alleged delay in completing the project is because of high employee turnover within the company during that time, reported the Post-Gazette. Additionally, Pennsylvania claims that IBM misrepresented several parts of the project that it said were complete at the time, even though the state alleged that software errors in the system remained. …

IT contractor to pay $45 million to settle software overcharge

Source: Mark Rockwell, Federal Computing Week, March 13, 2017

Systems software vendor CA will pay $45 million to resolve allegations of overcharging the General Services Administration for software licenses and maintenance. The settlement, announced by the Justice Department on March 10, resolves allegations that CA misrepresented its commercial pricing to GSA in a 2002 software license deal, which was extended in 2008 and 2009. … CA allegedly provided false information to GSA about the discounts it gave commercial customers for its software licenses and maintenance services. Under its contract with GSA, CA’s pricing was supposed to track with discounts available to commercial customers. Additionally, DOJ said the settlement resolves claims that CA violated the price reduction clause in the contract by not providing government customers with additional discounts when commercial discounts improved. The case was spurred by a whistleblower complaint by a former CA employee. …