Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.com
The bungled rollout of Rhode Island’s new public-benefits computer system, a launch whose primary vendor was Deloitte Consulting, raises some questions about how much governments should depend on private-sector contractors that may not understand the complexities of creating or revising systems to serve the general public. There have been many other rather similar bungled launches by state governments, with those in Vermont, Kentucky and Oregon among the most dramatic screw-ups.
Sometimes it may make much more functional and financial sense to have government employees do the jobs now being done by consultants, assuming that the political leadership obtains adequate resources for training them and indeed hires more state employees to ensure that a new system is properly managed over coming years. Many in the public complain that Rhode Island government is overstaffed. It is not.
What can go wrong in hiring outside consultantsto do jobs that are more properly those of government employees was vivid in Iraq, where after the U.S. invasion in 2003, the Bush administration sent in thousands of very highly paid consultants(some being employees of consultancies with political connections) to do what military and other federal employees should have been doing. As a result, there were scandals involving inappropriate physical force as well as vast cost overruns and administrative snafus.
Sometimes hiring outside consultants to do government work can be a great big fat false economy.
It was good to hear Gov. Gina Raimondo again take ultimate responsibility the other week for the mess; she has removed some of the state executives who had been involved in the launch.