A. PURPOSE OF THE INVESTIGATION
This report examines the procurement, development, and impact on children and families of the
Office of Children and Family Services'1 CONNECTIONS computer system. This system was the State's
answer to a 1993 federal law which encouraged states to create Statewide Automated Child Welfare
Information Systems (SACWIS). It was intended to track the tens of thousands of children receiving
various child welfare services across New York State. CONNECTIONS was also designed to connect
the State agency with the counties and not-for-profit agencies that provide these services.
The Committees' interest in CONNECTIONS is two-fold. First, the Assembly Committees on Oversight,
Analysis and Investigation and on Children and Families had previously identified problems with
the CONNECTIONS system as a result of their earlier examination of the State's foster care system.
Some of these problems were documented in the Committees' May 1999 report LOSING OUR CHILDREN:
An Examination of New York's Foster Care System. The current investigation was intended to follow
up on issues raised about CONNECTIONS during that earlier study.
In addition, the Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation focused on the CONNECTIONS
procurement as part of its broader examination of New York's computer technology procurement practices.
CONNECTIONS is one of the largest information technology projects undertaken by the State (the cost
of the project overall has grown to over $362 million). Together, the two main contracts the State
entered into to build the system place CONNECTIONS in the top ten most expensive procurements covered
by the Procurement Stewardship Act.2
This report presents the Committees' findings, including quotes from system users and relevant
documents. It also makes recommendations applicable to CONNECTIONS specifically, as well as for
improving the State's information technology procurement process generally. It is the Committees'
hope that similar problems will be avoided in other large current and future computer system projects.
B. BACKGROUND ON CONNECTIONS
When the original contracts for the system were announced in 1996, Governor Pataki expressed high
hopes for it:
"Our new system will allow child welfare caseworkers to spend less time
shuffling paper and more time directly helping thousands of children in New York
State who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and abandonment."3
Yet five years later, the two main contracts have grown from $113.6 million to $216 million, only
three out of five major components of the system are operational, and users complain that these parts
do not work as intended and are unreliable. The case management portions of the system -- designed to
keep track of children receiving services -- is not in place, and a system to enable local reporting
is not expected to be available statewide until the end of 2001 at the earliest. Caseworkers on the
front lines report that the system actually increases their administrative time rather than decreases
it. They fear that children may continue to be at risk of abuse and neglect because of the inadequacies
In the words of Maximus, the contractor recently hired by the State to recommend how to
fix CONNECTIONS' problems:
"…[L]ess than half of the system's capabilities has been implemented.
Functionally, the software supports only the initial acceptance and investigation
of allegations of reports of child abuse and neglect…while foster care, adoption,
and preventive services programs are supported by the non-SACWIS Child Care
Review Service (CCRS). This creates a dual working environment, additional costs,
and end-user dissatisfaction."4
Maximus is conducting an entire re-assessment of CONNECTIONS' hardware and software. It is expected
to recommend either fixing the components that have not been rolled out because they do not meet
users' needs, or scrapping them and starting from scratch.
At an Assembly hearing in May 2000, Marjorie McLoughlin, Executive Director of Cardinal McCloskey
Services -- a not-for-profit child welfare agency under contract with New York City -- told the
Committees that her agency has been less able to serve the client population as a result of CONNECTIONS.
She summed up her complaints with the system:
"What we have now is a poorly functioning system for some people, at
great expense to all people, with aging equipment and with no demonstrable help
to even a single caseworker, in the Voluntary Sector, much less to any child
or family that we serve."5
Nicholas Scoppetta, Commissioner of New York City's Administration for Children's Services (ACS),
also expressed dissatisfaction with the system's ability to meet expectations:
"We're enormously frustrated, so frustrated that we are spending
millions of dollars for work-arounds because CONNECTIONS didn't work."6
Chautauqua County Social Services Commissioner Edwin Miner tied CONNECTIONS' inadequacies to a
lack of proper vision and project planning:
"It was not designed with a vision for its interface with
human beings. It is neither intuitive nor logical. Finally, it
is slow, tedious and potentially fatally inaccurate."7
As recently as January 2001, the successful plaintiffs in an action brought against New York City
and New York State argued that CONNECTIONS' failings hurt children and taxpayers, and that continued
court intervention was needed:
"Every step of the way, this critically important
accountability device has been delayed, mishandled, and mismanaged.
Other than the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that have
been poured into a non-functional computer information system, the
children of New York and the plaintiffs on whose behalf this
settlement was negotiated are still without the protections of an
adequate computerized state-wide information system."8
C. OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
Much of the research involved in this investigation was conducted in 1999 and 2000 under the
leadership of William L. Parment, then-Chairman of the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation
Committee. In January 2001, Assemblyman Scott M. Stringer took over as Chairman of the Committee.
He has joined Assemblyman Roger L. Green, Chairman of the Committee on Children and Families in
completing the report, implementing its recommendations, and helping to ensure ongoing Legislative
oversight of the CONNECTIONS project.
Between the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000, Oversight Committee staff examined the
procurement record and related documents, spoke to State Comptroller and agency personnel, and
reviewed various outside reports that cite CONNECTIONS. Joint public hearings were held by the
Assembly Committees on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation, on Children and Families, and on
Governmental Operations in May 2000. Testimony was received from various users of the system,
including not-for-profit child welfare agencies, county social services commissioners, and unions
representing State and county workers who use the system, as well as the State Comptroller, the
contractors, and representatives from the Administration.
The investigation focused on the following issues:
- To understand what the problems are with CONNECTIONS, the impacts
of these problems on children and families, why the system is not
working as intended, how the Administration plans to fix the system,
and anticipated costs.
- To learn from the procurement, design and implementation of
CONNECTIONS, and to make recommendations that are both specific to
CONNECTIONS and also can be applied systemically, with the hope of
avoiding similar situations in the future.
This report brings together key issues and findings identified during the Committees' investigation.
Summarized below are the key findings raised in the report, as well as administrative and legislative
It is important that the Administration act quickly to complete the implementation of a properly
functioning statewide child welfare information system. Until then, children may continue to be at
an increased risk of abuse or neglect, costs will continue to rise, services will suffer, and the
implementation of major child welfare programs will be hampered. Such programs include the federal
Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) and New York City's Neighborhood-Based Child Welfare
Services initiative. While the Administration has made recent efforts to solicit the needs of system
users and to reassess the system as a whole, more needs to be done, and quickly.
D. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
PROBLEMS WITH THE CONNECTIONS SYSTEM AND THEIR IMPACTS ON CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
- Despite the Office's and the contractors' public claims,
when pressed, the Administration admits the system is incomplete
and doesn't work as intended. Major portions of the system have
not been implemented, and those that have require fixes and modifications.
- The problems created by CONNECTIONS have had a negative impact
on children and families and service delivery. Examples include:
- Inaccurate searches in the system for known child abusers
may come up with nothing. As a result, investigations may be closed,
leaving children in dangerous situations. Child Abuse Registry workers
fear that there have been problems with 40% of the searches since
- Backlogs of clearances against the Child Abuse Registry cost
some prospective workers their jobs.
- Because of the cumbersome nature of CONNECTIONS, and the
increased administrative burden and duplicate data entry it has caused,
caseworkers have less time to spend directly helping children and
- Providers in New York City have been unable to meet
requirements to place children in their own communities because
of delays in receiving CONNECTIONS hardware and software.
- Providers have to rely on the State's old systems,
and develop their own alternative systems -- at their own cost
-- to track information CONNECTIONS was supposed to track.
This is particularly true for case management and ASFA
- Inadequate management reports hinder supervision
of casework and decision-making, potentially affecting
- Until CONNECTIONS is fixed and fully implemented, problems
identified in State Comptroller audits -- which CONNECTIONS was
intended to remedy -- remain. Two recent court settlements also
require implementing a functioning CONNECTIONS system to ensure
that services are being delivered.
- Many of these problems resulted from a lack of user input during
system design and implementation. The Office should continue to
work closely with the CONNECTIONS user community -- including
local districts, contract agencies, and State workers -- to
identify system modifications that will address their needs
and help them to achieve their mission. The completed system,
which originally promised to save caseworkers time, should
at least be time-demand neutral.
- The Committees reiterate their recommendation from their
earlier report, LOSING OUR CHILDREN, that the Office should
significantly increase its supervision of the local districts
to ensure that State programs are being implemented as intended
and that children and families are being served. This is especially
important in light of the Comptroller's findings that CONNECTIONS
has failed to fulfill its role as a tool to aid in State agency oversight.
- The Committees also recommend that the State Comptroller
continue to monitor the Office's efforts to supervise local
- Until CONNECTIONS is operational, the Office should take
interim steps to address Comptroller audit recommendations,
and should keep the Governor, Comptroller, and Legislature
apprised of these steps. Currently, agencies are only
required to file with these entities one report -- due 90
days after an audit is issued -- that shows their efforts to
implement audit recommendations. One report often does not
present a full picture of an agency's compliance activities.
Legislation has been introduced
(A.5626) to address the need
for continued monitoring of agency actions in response to audit
recommendations -- not just in the CONNECTIONS case. This bill
would require that all audited agencies continue providing 90
day updates to the Governor, Comptroller, and Legislature
until all agreed upon recommendations are implemented. It also
provides that the Comptroller may do follow-up audits to determine
the extent to which recommendations have been implemented.
- The evidence indicates that the CONNECTIONS procurement in some
instances violated the principles of the State's procurement law.
In other instances, deficiencies in the law allowed for irregularities
in the procurement process. The following actions by the Administration
raise questions about the fairness of the procurement, and whether
or not the State made a best value award as defined in the statute:
- awarding contracts to two vendors instead of one, as
outlined in the original Request for Proposals, without
conducting a new procurement,
- changing the criteria against which vendor proposals
were judged, after seeing the initial offers,
- at the last minute, calling the procurement an emergency,
- overriding recommendations of technical and financial
committees which evaluated the proposals,
- authorizing work to begin before obtaining Comptroller
- maintaining an incomplete procurement record; therefore
key decisions and who made them cannot be discerned,
- ignoring requirements of Executive Order No. 189
to appoint a Procurement Integrity Officer, which was
designed to detect and prevent improper contacts and
lobbying by firms with proposals before the agency.
- Ultimately, the record is unclear as to who was responsible,
and accountable, for many major decisions in the CONNECTIONS project.
What is clear is that the Governor's office played a critical role
in key decisions -- both during the contracting process and during
early implementation -- that led to problems that exist today.
- Potential vendors should be afforded the opportunity, up front,
to know how their proposals will be evaluated. Making vendors aware
of what is expected of them and what the agency deems important
can help better ensure a truly competitive procurement, and can
hopefully avoid misunderstandings between the vendor and the State
after contract award. A recent statutory change requiring that
agencies not change evaluation criteria after the receipt of initial
offers hopefully clarifies the issue first brought up in the Transactive
case.9 Agencies should also disclose in the Request for Proposals
(RFP), to the maximum extent possible, the detailed evaluation criteria
that will be used to select the successful vendor.
- Executive Order No. 189 -- which requires each agency head to
designate a Procurement Integrity Officer to receive reports of contacts
between agency personnel and vendors -- should be followed and enforced
by the Executive. This Executive Order was intended to preserve the
integrity of the procurement process by preventing improper lobbying
- Documentation of contacts that are required to be reported to
the Procurement Integrity Officer should be made part of the relevant
- A formal mechanism should be established in statute so bidders
have a right to challenge what they think is an unfair procurement.
The statute should set forth the broad outline of the bid protest
process, and require the Comptroller to implement the statute.
- State statute should require that, except in extraordinary
circumstances, agencies must disclose in the RFP the detailed
evaluation criteria that will be used to select the successful vendor.
- Executive Order No. 189 should be codified in statute.
- The Emergency provision of the law should be strengthened. This
may be done in several ways, which are not mutually exclusive:
- As previously recommended by the Assembly, codifying
the language of the Procurement Council Guidelines that
stated that an agency's failure to properly plan in advance
does not constitute an emergency.
- Requiring that an Emergency procurement be declared by
the Governor, rather than a management-level designee in an agency.
- Adopting language from Chapter 116, Laws of 2000, amending
section 3-0301 (2) of the Environmental Conservation Law relating
to construction emergencies, to, among other things, clearly
express the limited nature of such procurements.
- Legislation is needed to address the problem of State agencies
proceeding with implementing contracts that have not yet been
approved by the Comptroller. One approach is to establish some mechanism
to ensure that an agency does not preempt Comptroller review by accepting
delivery of goods or services before a contract receives the required approval.
CONTRACT MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION
- The State agency failed to adequately manage work required under
the contracts and subsequent change orders, and project implementation.
- The contract and amendments negotiated with Andersen Consulting
to develop the software contributed to current problems with the system.
- The procurement was originally supposed to result in a
specified product for a fixed price, but the contract and
amendments changed this to a time and materials basis;
- The State and Andersen severely underestimated the amount
of work needed to customize the software for New York; the
effort grew from 5,500 days to over 28,000 days in the first
year, and continues to grow. Even with this large increase,
it has failed to meet 60% of users' needs;
- The contract language left the State in a poor position
to enforce the contract; the liability provisions clearly
- The contract and change orders negotiated with ISSC
(a subsidiary of IBM)11
may not have provided the best value to the
State. From the beginning to the most recent change orders, IBM
prices for CONNECTIONS equipment have exceeded market prices.
- The large number and dollar amount of change orders involved with
this project runs contrary to the best value principle in State law.
Since their inception in 1996, the Andersen and IBM contracts have
increased by 167% and 53% respectively, together representing an overall
increase of 90% for the project.
- The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) steered
the Office to do what it should have done on its own as part of overall
contract management. This included enforcing the original contracts with
Andersen, and requiring new hardware and software be competitively bid.
However, Andersen's unique programming language, not known or used by other
vendors, may result in other vendors being unable to bid.
- The Administration must improve its ability to negotiate, enforce,
and manage large computer technology contracts. Greater training and
support for agency management involved in this function is needed.
Statewide standards for technology contracts, including enforcement
mechanisms, should be established. Recent efforts by the State Office
for Technology (OFT) to help negotiate complex technology procurements,
train project managers, and establish standard statewide technology
contract provisions are promising. However, because OFT cannot be involved
in every technology procurement and implementation, training should be
available and required for agency personnel involved in contract negotiations,
enforcement and management.
- The State Comptroller should continue to monitor the Office's compliance
with its audit recommendations to improve agency controls over change orders.
In October 1998, in response to a Comptroller's audit, Commissioner Johnson
had promised to take action in this regard.
- It is hard to pin down the total cost of the system so far, and the
Administration cannot tell us how much more it will cost.
- The Committees estimate the cost to date to be around
$362 million, not including the cost of fixing or replacing
the case management and fiscal management components that
were never implemented. This cost will not be known until
Maximus and the State complete their re-assessment efforts,
and a new procurement is done.
- Even if we know the total cost, the State versus federal
share remains unclear.
- State appropriations so far total $115.5 million, with
another $35.6 million proposed for 2001-02.
- Due to delayed approval by the federal agency of certain
CONNECTIONS costs, and ongoing audits of CONNECTIONS claims,
the State faces the loss of federal reimbursement for the system.
OCFS Commissioner Johnson has estimated that $40 million could
be at risk. This does not include other penalties, such as those
pending for not meeting federal AFCARS reporting requirements.
- Local districts and contract providers are also experiencing
added costs due to CONNECTIONS, including developing alternate computer
and manual systems, additional time spent on recordkeeping in CONNECTIONS
and other systems, overtime needed to complete fieldwork, and training
workers on the system.
- The Governor's proposed 2001-02 budget includes $60.6 million
in State and federal funding for CONNECTIONS. According to budget
officials, this figure does not include any of the costs to deal
with fixing or replacing "Release 4". In 2000, the Executive
requested and the Legislature approved funding for a project
integrator (Maximus), whose chief responsibility was to recommend
how to proceed with the system's development. The Maximus report
is now four months late. At the Legislative budget hearing on February
6, 2001, Commissioner Johnson indicated that Maximus had completed its
report, and it was under review by OCFS.
However, when this report went to print, the Legislature still had
no indication from OCFS what any additional costs for completing the
project would be. The Legislature must be provided as soon as possible
with both the Maximus report and with the Executive's recommendations
on how it plans to proceed. Only then is it reasonable to expect the
Legislature to act on the Governor's proposed 2001-02 budget as it
relates to CONNECTIONS.
- Throughout this report, "the Office"
is used to refer to the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and its
predecessor, the Department of Social Services (DSS), unless specifically noted
- The Procurement Stewardship Act (Article 11, State Finance Law) was originally
enacted in 1995. It was subsequently amended in 2000 and extended until June 30,
2005, and governs State purchases of information technology, as well as other goods
- "Governor Pataki Announces High Tech Plan to Fight Child Abuse",
(Press Release), February 29, 1996.
- Maximus proposal in response to OCFS' Project Integrator RFP, July 23, 1999,
- Written testimony of Marjorie McLoughlin, Executive Director, Cardinal McCloskey
Services, May 12, 2000 public hearing.
- "Poor Equipment, Software Woes Plague Network", The Daily News,
September 5, 2000, p.2.
- Written testimony of Edwin Miner, Commissioner, Chautauqua County Department
of Social Services, p. 1.
- Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order Directing Compliance
with Certain Provisions of the Marisol State Settlement Agreement, submitted to the
US District Court, Southern District of New York, January 2, 2001.
- Transactive Corp. v. Dept. Of Social Services, 236 A.D.2d 48 (3rd Dept. 1997).
- Andersen Consulting is now known as Accenture.
- ISSC is now known as IBM Global Services.
This report examines the procurement, development, and impact on children and families of the
Office of Children and Family Services' CONNECTIONS computer system. This system was intended to
track children receiving various child welfare services across New York State. CONNECTIONS was also
designed to connect the State agency with the counties and not-for-profit agencies that provide these
services. Data from the Office of Children and Family Services show that in 1999, 138,000 reports
of child abuse or neglect were received by the State Central Registry of Child Abuse and Maltreatment;
42,000 children received preventive services; 47,700 children were in foster care at year end; and
3,400 were legally freed for adoption.12
So far, CONNECTIONS tracks information only on the children
included in the child protective reports received by the Registry. Until CONNECTIONS is fully
implemented, children receiving the other child welfare services are tracked in the State's old systems
or in manual systems.
The report identifies numerous problems with the procurement, development and implementation of
the CONNECTIONS system. It makes recommendations that are both specific to CONNECTIONS and also can
be applied systemically, with the hope of avoiding similar situations in the future.
A. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Committees' interest in CONNECTIONS is twofold. First, the Assembly Committees on Oversight,
Analysis and Investigation and on Children and Families had previously identified problems with
CONNECTIONS as a result of their earlier examination of the State's foster care system. Some of these
problems were documented in the Committees' May 1999 report LOSING OUR CHILDREN: An Examination of New
York's Foster Care System. Since then, other sources have pointed to continuing problems with the
system, including State Comptroller audits, the federal Health and Human Services Inspector General,
and numerous newspaper accounts in which local governments and not-for-profit agencies voiced
complaints. The Committees' current investigation was intended to follow up on the issues raised
In addition, in the spring of 1999, the Assembly Standing Committee on Oversight, Analysis and
Investigation initiated a broader examination of New York's computer technology procurement practices,
to determine whether they are fair, effective and cost-efficient. At the time, the purchase of
computers and information technology, as well as other goods and services purchased by State agencies,
was governed by the State Procurement Stewardship Act of 1995 (the Act), which was due to sunset
June 30, 2000. The Act has since been modified and extended until June 30, 2005. Certain provisions
relating to information technology have changed, and will be discussed in this report.
The Committee focused on information technology contracts because of the large number and cost of
computer projects undertaken by State agencies in recent years. Since 1995, the cost of information
technology contracts as a percent of all contracts covered by the Act has more than doubled from 7% to
17%. At the end of State fiscal year 1995-1996, the State had entered into information technology
contracts worth $1.3 billion. By the end of State fiscal year 1999-2000, this investment had more than
tripled to $4.6 billion.13
As part of its broader examination, the Committee examined several key information technology
contracts entered into pursuant to the Act. Of particular interest were those which have had bid
protests lodged against them by unsuccessful bidders, which might indicate problems with the procurement
process. Among these projects was CONNECTIONS.
CONNECTIONS is one of the largest information technology projects undertaken by the State (the cost
of the project overall has grown to over $362 million). Together, the two main contracts with outside
vendors that the State entered into to build the system place CONNECTIONS in the top ten most expensive
procurements covered by the Act. These contracts now total $216 million of the$362 million total cost
of the project to date.
When the original contracts to build CONNECTIONS were announced in 1996, Governor Pataki expressed
high hopes for it:
"Our new system will allow child welfare caseworkers to spend less time shuffling paper
and more time directly helping thousands of children in New York State who are vulnerable
to abuse, neglect and abandonment."14
Then-Acting Commissioner Brian Wing of the Department of Social Services, the agency responsible
for the project at the time, predicted:
"Connections will be a vital new tool in our work to improve the quality of
child welfare services in New York. The true beneficiaries of the program will be the
thousands of children and families served by the system."15
Yet five years later the system does not work as intended and contract costs have escalated from
$113.6 million to $216 million. Caseworkers on the front lines report that the system actually
increases their administrative time spent rather than decreases it. They fear that children may
continue to be at risk of abuse and neglect because of the inadequacies of CONNECTIONS.
B. HISTORY OF CONNECTIONS
CONNECTIONS is New York State's response to a 1993 federal law16
which encouraged states to create
Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information Systems (SACWIS) to provide for effective management,
tracking, and reporting of children in the child welfare system. Enhanced federal reimbursement of 75%
was originally available through September 1996 for the planning, design, development and installation
of the system. Operational costs were to be reimbursed at a rate of 50%. After the 1996 deadline,
expenses covered by enhanced funding would drop to the lower 50% rate as well. The deadline for
enhanced reimbursement was later extended through September 1997.
New York intended its system to meet the requirements of the federal Adoption and Foster Care
Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). AFCARS requires states to report certain statistics on children
receiving foster care and adoption services to the federal Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) or face penalties, starting in 1997. AFCARS compliance was a key goal of the CONNECTIONS system
and part of the Request for Proposals (RFP).
The CONNECTIONS system was intended to serve as an important information system to help track the
thousands of children in the State's child welfare system. It was designed to address a growing
crisis in child welfare in New York, where children were falling through the cracks in the
"system". Among its goals were to:
- improve case decision-making and planning;
- improve overall tracking of cases;
- increase accuracy and timeliness of information;
- provide an opportunity to integrate data across all service systems;
- provide ready access to case files and resource information;
- provide supervisory and management assistance in monitoring and evaluating casework;
- provide more efficient case management at all levels; and
- meet federal reporting requirements.17
The Department of Social Services (DSS) released the Request for Proposals (RFP) in July 1995.
In February 1996, in a rush to meet the original federal funding deadline, DSS awarded contracts to
two vendors: ISSC--a subsidiary of IBM--for hardware installation, and Andersen Consulting LLP for
Together, the original contracts totaled $113.6 million. Five years later,
the contracts have grown to over $216 million, only three out of five major components of the system
are operational, and users complain that these parts do not work as intended and are unreliable.
Caseworkers say it has created more work for them, rather than assisting them to do their jobs, and
as a result, they have less time to spend with children. Only part of the system is operational, and
there is a general lack of confidence in the components that are in place. Local child welfare agencies
have, therefore, created workarounds and separate systems, and continue to maintain paper files. At
an Assembly hearing in May 2000, Marjorie McLoughlin, Executive Director of Cardinal McCloskey
Services, a not-for-profit child welfare agency under contract with New York City, summed up her
agency's complaints with the system:
"What we have now is a poorly functioning system for some people, at
great expense to all people, with aging equipment and with no demonstrable help
to even a single caseworker, in the Voluntary Sector, much less to any child
or family that we serve."19
Software implementation began in 1996. The system was originally to be comprised of five
"releases", which supported various child welfare services. However, implementation was
halted in early 1998 when users complained that the largest component, "Release 4", which was
supposed to handle case management and fiscal management, did not meet their needs, was time consuming,
and had many technical problems. Release 4 was never implemented; neither was Release 5 which was to
provide management reports to local child welfare supervisors. Later that year, a State Comptroller
audit of the system found weaknesses in the planning, design, development, and implementation of the
system, as well as poor controls over change orders.
In response to the audit, the Governor convened a Review and Oversight Panel in January 1999 to review
the project and make recommendations for proceeding. The Panel's recommendations included hiring a
consultant -- known as a Project Integrator -- to monitor and evaluate fixes to the system being done
by State workers and Andersen Consulting. The consultant was also to conduct a reassessment of the
entire system to determine whether and how to either fix it, or scrap it and start over. The Office of
Children and Family Services, which is now responsible for the project, has also formed various
management committees and user groups to involve users of the system in developing the final product.
While most users are generally optimistic about the recent plans for re-evaluating and fixing the
system -- and virtually all agree that such a system is urgently needed in New York -- they continue
to maintain duplicate manual records and alternative computer systems because they do not believe
CONNECTIONS is reliable.
C. NEW YORK'S CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM
New York's child welfare system serves tens of thousands of children statewide receiving child
protective services, preventive services, foster care services, and adoption services. These programs
are administered locally by social service districts in 57 counties and New York City. Some local
districts contract with private not-for-profit agencies to provide certain services. Unlike many other
states, New York has a decentralized system; the State agency serves primarily in an oversight and
Until January 1998, the former New York State Department of Social Services (DSS) was responsible
for administering and overseeing the State's child welfare programs. Effective January 8, 1998, DSS
was reorganized into the Offices of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and Temporary and Disability
Assistance (OTDA), within a new Department of Family Assistance. Under the reorganization, OCFS is
now responsible for child welfare programs, as well as youth programs formerly under the State Division
for Youth. OCFS has also assumed responsibility for the implementation of the CONNECTIONS system.
CONNECTIONS is intended to be a single, statewide integrated system connecting OCFS with all 58
social service districts, as well as not-for-profit agencies under contract to provide child welfare
D. FOCUS OF EXAMINATION
The Assembly Committees on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation and on Children and Families
focused their examination on the following issues:
- Specific to CONNECTIONS: To understand what the problems are with
the system, why the system is not working as intended, what the impacts
are to children and families, how the Administration plans to fix the
system, and the current and expected future costs.
- General: To learn from the procurement, design and implementation
of the CONNECTIONS system, and, in turn, to apply what is learned to
improve and strengthen the Procurement Stewardship Act, and New York's
information technology procurement process.
E. OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
Much of the research involved in this investigation was conducted in 1999 and 2000 under the leadership
of William L. Parment, then-Chairman of the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. Initial
preparation of this report was conducted under his able guidance. In January 2001, Assemblyman Scott
Stringer took over as Chairman of the Committee. Along with Assemblyman Roger Green, Chairman of the
Committee on Children and Families, Assemblyman Stringer has assumed the task of completing this report,
implementing its recommendations, and helping to ensure ongoing legislative oversight of the CONNECTIONS
Between the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000, Oversight Committee staff examined the procurement
record and related documents, spoke to State Comptroller and agency personnel, and reviewed various
outside reports that cite CONNECTIONS. From initial inquiries and reading through thousands of pages
of procurement documents, it became clear that the procurement and implementation processes raised issues
that the Committees needed to look at more closely. They decided to hold hearings and make further
Joint public hearings were held by the Assembly Committees on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation;
Children and Families; and Governmental Operations on May 12, 2000 in New York City and May 23, 2000
in Albany. Testimony was received from various users of the system, including: not-for-profit child
welfare agencies; county social services commissioners; unions representing State and county workers
who use the system; and representatives from the Administration, the contractors, and the State
Comptroller's office. The hearings sought to answer the following questions:
- What specifically are the problems with the system and
how do they impact service delivery?
- To the extent that CONNECTIONS is not functioning properly,
how are programmatic issues and case management problems cited
in Comptroller audits and other reports being addressed?
- How reliable has the CONNECTIONS system been in producing
accurate and consistent information?
- How has the delay in implementation of CONNECTIONS affected
various users? What alternative systems are being used in
- Were steps taken in the original procurement process that
led to some of the problems with the system today? Could the
process have been conducted in a different manner that would
have produced better results?
- Were the contracts entered into in compliance with the
1995 Procurement Stewardship Act? Does the CONNECTIONS
procurement offer any lessons on how the Act might be improved?
- Were there and are there now adequate checks and balances
in the process governing contract review and approval and
This report brings together key issues and findings identified during the Committees' investigation
and the public hearings. Some of the testimony received and documents reviewed are quoted throughout
Most important is understanding the problems with CONNECTIONS and their impacts on
children and families. The report will examine this first, and then will try to answer the question:
How did we get here? The discussion then goes back to the beginning to consider issues with the
original procurement and subsequent contract management. Finally, fiscal impacts of the system
are examined. Administrative and legislative recommendations to address these findings are presented,
with the hope that similar problems in procuring and implementing future information technology
projects might be averted, and to help address present CONNECTIONS problems.
- Source: "1999 Monitoring and Analysis
Profiles with Selected Trend Data: 1995-1999", New York State Office of
Children and Family Services.
- Source: Data from the State Comptroller's office.
- "Governor Pataki Announces High Tech Plan to Fight Child Abuse",
(Press Release), February 29, 1996.
- P.L. 103-66, enacted August 10, 1993.
- CONNECTIONS Request for Proposals, Department of Social Services, July 1995,
- ISSC is now known as IBM Global Services; Andersen Consulting is now known
- Written testimony of Marjorie McLoughlin, Executive Director, Cardinal
McCloskey Services, May 12, 2000 public hearing.
- There were technical difficulties in the transcription of the May 23,
2000 public hearing. Therefore, the possibility of errors in the transcript
exists. Every effort was made to quote exchanges around which no question existed.
Whenever possible, the written testimony submitted by a witness was used instead.
II. PROBLEMS WITH THE CONNECTIONS
SYSTEM AND THEIR IMPACTS ON CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
This section of the report summarizes some of the key problems identified with the CONNECTIONS
system, and how they have impacted children and families and service delivery. It includes issues
and concerns described by witnesses at the May 2000 public hearings, as well as problems that the
Committees learned of through their own research. On numerous occasions, the Committees reached
out to the Office to understand their perspective on these issues and to learn of their plans to
rectify the situation. The focus of the issues raised is: are children better off or worse off
since CONNECTIONS was initiated?
- Finding: Despite the Office's and the contractors' public claims, when pressed,
the Administration admits the system doesn't work as intended.
At the Committees' public hearings, representatives of both OCFS and Andersen Consulting touted
the successes of CONNECTIONS. It was not until pressed that they admitted what the Administration has
been saying for some time privately - that the system is not working as planned.
OCFS Commissioner John Johnson testified that he believes the system is currently working. However,
his testimony focused on the parts of the system that are operational, rather than functions that
have problems or have not yet been put into production. He maintained:
"[T]he CONNECTIONS system is an essential tool that already is
helping us to better protect the children of New York."21
The Commissioner credited CONNECTIONS with reducing New York City's backlog of investigations of child
abuse and neglect reports from 31,000 to fewer than 150. He praised CONNECTIONS for improving the
amount and quality of information that is relayed from the Child Abuse Hotline to local child protective
workers. He also testified that CONNECTIONS has processed over 400,000 reports of abuse or neglect
without the loss of a single file. (As will be seen later, many users of the system dispute these claims.)
While admitting that the Office experienced challenges in implementing the system, the Commissioner
praised the future capabilities of the system, noting that:
"Today, in fact, we are moving steadily forward in implementing
a state of the art computer network that will better protect our children."22
Andersen Consulting's Martin Cole also argued that the system is working:
"…[W]e're proud of the work Andersen Consulting has done to help the
state build New York Connections…and I want you to know that it is working
and protecting the children of New York.23 …The Connections system is extremely
stable. And it reliably processes massive volumes of data, helping caseworkers
protect the children of New York."24
The contractor also credits the system with many functions that are not yet available to users. For
example, Mr. Cole noted that the system is designed to help meet State and federal guidelines. Yet it
is Release 4 -- which has not been rolled out yet -- that contains many of these functions, including
tracking State and federal deadlines and producing federally required AFCARS reports. He acknowledged
that while Release 4 was delivered by Andersen in October 1997, it was not placed into production,
pending an evaluation of the user test results, an assessment of organizational changes needed, and the
resolution of user issues and requests for system modifications. An evaluation of the pilot revealed
extensive user dissatisfaction, and as a result, the system was never rolled out.
Despite the above positive characterizations, the Administration has admitted elsewhere that the
system does not function properly. In June 1999, the Office released a Request for Proposals (RFP)
to hire a consultant ("Project Integrator") to reassess the system and determine how to
fix it. In this RFP, the Office describes the status of the system:
"A State Panel, established in January 1999 to study the
system, determined that CONNECTIONS was incomplete and not performing
at a satisfactory level. The findings extended to the hardware, software,
documentation, change process, requirements management, system design and
the reliability and accuracy of the data."25
Further, the proposal from Maximus, the successful bidder chosen by the Office for its expertise,
"The CONNECTIONS project is at a critical stage. While
all hardware and internal infrastructure has been implemented across
the state, less than half of the system's capabilities has been
implemented. Functionally, the software supports only the initial
acceptance and investigation of allegations of reports of child
abuse and neglect….while foster care, adoption, and preventive
services programs are supported by the non-SACWIS Child Care
Review Service (CCRS). This creates a dual working environment,
additional costs, and end-user dissatisfaction. Compounding the
existing dual environment, functional and technical issues have
been identified within Release 2 that require immediate remediation.
As a result, the state is faced with an incomplete federally mandated
child welfare management system that is not supported by local districts
and voluntary agencies because of its functional and technical deficiencies."
- Finding: The problems created by CONNECTIONS have had a negative impact on children and families.
As described above, the problems with CONNECTIONS range from the software and hardware to the overall
implementation of the system. This section of the report details some of these problems. It also
describes the potentially serious impacts to children and families caused by these problems.
The crux of the problem is that only 3 out of the original 5 software releases are operational, and
those components that are in place require fixes and modifications. As a result many goals of the system
have not been met. Brian Wing, now the Commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance,
described the problems that CONNECTIONS was supposed to address:
"When the federal government initiated the SACWIS project,
virtually everyone agreed that New York desperately needed an improved,
comprehensive automated system for its child welfare programs. What
we had at the time was a variety of systems, mostly antiquated and
labor-intensive, with caseworkers [sic] buried in paperwork. The
safety of children was potentially compromised by the lack of quick
access to, and exchange of, information, and the State's credibility
with federal overseers was low."27
To date, not much has changed. Because of the problems described below, overburdened caseworkers have
no confidence in the system. Most caseworkers maintain paper back-up files and have developed cumbersome
work-arounds and separate systems to handle what CONNECTIONS was supposed to do. Further, problems such
as inaccurate checks of potential child abusers through the Child Abuse Registry potentially put children
at risk. Thomas Cetrino, of the Public Employees Federation (PEF), which represents State workers at the
Child Abuse Hotline, testified:
"...the veteran members who work at the [Child Abuse]
registry are extremely concerned that the accuracy of the
clearance process cannot be trusted. If they have no
faith in the system, how can the public trust it?"28
Service providers, who generally support the idea of the system, indicate that it is not meeting their
expectations. James Purcell, Executive Director of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA),
which represents most of the not-for-profit child welfare agencies across the state, testified:
"While child welfare service providers understand
and support the need for a child welfare tracking and
management information system, they have been repeatedly
dismayed by the operational difficulties they encounter
in the current Connections system."29
While happy about CONNECTIONS' e-mail system, providers more often recognize barriers raised by
CONNECTIONS. Some insist that despite these barriers they have been able to serve children as required
by law. Others paint a bleaker picture of the direct impact the system has had on service delivery and
contacts with children and families. Chautauqua County Social Services Commissioner Edwin Miner testified:
"It should be obvious to state that anything
that diminishes or degrades this human contact
undermines our capacity to help and further victimizes
the innocent. Connections, in its design and implementation,
manages to achieve these dubious distinctions by
erecting barriers to direct intervention…. The computer
terminal competes with face to face contact and often wins."30
Nicholas Scoppetta, Commissioner of New York City's Administration for Children's Services (ACS), also
expressed dissatisfaction with the system:
"We're enormously frustrated, so frustrated
that we are spending millions of dollars for
work-arounds because CONNECTIONS didn't work."31
- Problems with Searches and Data in the Child Abuse Registry.
Several problems were identified with the components of CONNECTIONS used by workers at the State Child
Abuse Registry and by local child protective workers investigating allegations of abuse and neglect.
- Person search function is not accurate. CONNECTIONS does not always
retrieve past reports of abuse or neglect that are in the system regarding
an individual. This is in part because the system does not accurately
search for various permutations of names of suspected child abusers.
According to Child Abuse Registry workers, the prior system could better
handle name permutations. This information is critical in investigating
subsequent reports of abuse or neglect, and in clearing individuals for
jobs working with children.
In a recent news article, a Suffolk County child abuse investigator
described how it is not uncommon for her memory of a prior incident to be
more reliable than CONNECTIONS. In one instance, she was assigned to
investigate a case of suspected abuse, where the name of the suspected
abuser sounded familiar. She typed the name into CONNECTIONS, but its
search function came up with nothing. After searching her paper files,
she found that the individual had indeed been reported two years earlier.
She noted that such incidents are not uncommon:
"I have investigated a family that I know should be
in [CONNECTIONS] but they're not. I will drive up and find that I've
been at this house before. We have a lot of new workers and if they go
to this system and it says nothing, they don't even know to look for
[paper] case records."32
- Backlogs of clearances have been traced to CONNECTIONS. Workers report
that two types of backlogs have resulted from CONNECTIONS' deficiencies.
The system is not able to perform functions required by law. The following
problems were identified by workers at the Child Abuse Registry:34
- The system has never been able to adequately identify or process
statutorily required administrative reviews of substantiated cases of
- By law, the subject of an unfounded child abuse report should be
removed from the system 10 years after the report is deemed unfounded.
Workers at the Registry report that CONNECTIONS does not accurately
remove such reports from the system.
The system loses information. Users have found that the system does not
reliably record entered information. They therefore feel the need to
write down the information before entering it so the information is not
lost. This is particularly critical at the Child Abuse Registry, where
workers are instructed to write down reports of child abuse before entering
them in the system. This backup manual system wastes critical time for
caseworkers and is very frustrating. Thomas Cetrino of PEF explained:
"A few months after it was implemented, the system lost thousands
of child abuse reports. Since that time, all reports of child abuse are
first entered on paper and then entered into the system…It is possible
that after an hour of work, the system will lose the information that
has been entered. It is also possible that the system will duplicate
the reports on its own. You can never tell from day to day what is
going to happen when you enter a child abuse report into the Connections
These duplicate manual records are in addition to the other manual
records needed because the current system is incomplete. For example,
CONNECTIONS cannot be used yet for case management and tracking.
Therefore, caseworkers enter some information into the old CCRS system,
but still must maintain paper files or separate in-house databases
for the additional information that CONNECTIONS Release 4 was supposed
to track, including federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)
Inaccurate data exists in the system. Several witnesses expressed
skepticism over the accuracy of the data in CONNECTIONS. They questioned
the reliability of the system as a whole to track children and to serve
as a billing system for children in foster care.
- The system started off with incorrect data. The system is
partly based on inaccurate data that was originally entered
into other State computer systems, especially CCRS. Since more
people will be entering data into CONNECTIONS, the potential
for continued inaccuracies is great. Marjorie McLoughlin, of
Cardinal McCloskey Services, testified:
"…New York needs an effective management information
system. And that system must be able to maintain internal
accuracy and integrity. To date no system that we have ever
tried has been able to do this. The legendary Child Care Review
Service (CCRS) that has served the Child Welfare System for the
past 15 years is famous for its inaccuracy…With every child
welfare caseworker in New York entering data [into Connections],
we do not even have a prayer of maintaining accuracy, and without
accuracy the system is useless."36
- When incorrect data is discovered, caseworkers are not permitted
to correct it in the system. This perpetuates inaccuracies, and may
have serious consequences. Examples include:
Impacts to children and families resulting from these data and search problems:
- Inaccurate searches put children at risk. Perhaps the
most alarming and direct consequence of ongoing CONNECTIONS problems
is that inaccurate searches and clearances against the Child Abuse
Registry continue to place children at risk. Searches in CONNECTIONS
for known abusers may still come up with nothing. This could result
in an investigation being closed when a child is still at risk, or
an agency approving someone as a foster parent who has a history
as a child abuser.
The Agency reported to the Legislature that several fixes have recently been made or
will soon be made to improve the search function, and to enable caseworkers to correct
data in the system.38 However, at least seven more fixes are needed according to Erie
County Social Services Commissioner Deborah Merrifield, who serves on the statewide
Steering Committee recently formed by the Office to address problems with the system.
Until then, it is impossible to know the accuracy of this vital function. In the
meantime, local districts have had to maintain parallel systems to double check whether
people reported to them have had prior histories of abuse.
Commissioner Merrifield described the continued uncertainty faced by caseworkers:
"Staff report that Person Search works better than March 1999, but exactly how
much better is unknown and impossible to determine. If the Search doesn't tell you some
information on a child or alleged perpetrator of abuse that actually exists in the system,
you can't know that you didn't receive missing information."39
Workers at the Child Abuse Registry estimate that since July 1996, at best, 60% of clearances
given by the Registry have been accurate.40 The workers fear that the safety of children involved
with the other 40% may have been threatened.
- Confidentiality breaches. Confidentiality breaches
occur when CONNECTIONS erroneously switches the address of the
accused abuser with that of the reporter. This can result in
the accused person being sent the report of suspected child
abuse with the name of the individual who reported them. It
also runs counter to the confidentiality protections the State
provides for people who make such reports, and could potentially
create a risk to the reporter.
A related issue has been that the name of the accused abuser and the victim are sometimes
switched in the system. Commissioner Miner described such a situation in Chautauqua County
and its devastating effect:
"A young girl was the victim of maltreatment. She was in
foster care. She was a success story. She got a job in a day-care
center. Everything was great. They had to screen the Central
[Child Abuse] Registry. She came up as a perp. They had to remove
her from her job. She was humiliated. She was embarrassed.
It turns out she wasn't a perp, she was a victim. This girl was
devastated. She was trying to heal from this and it just shoved
her back into the mess."41
- Backlogs of clearances impact prospective employees and
foster parents, as well as birth parents. Often, prospective
employees awaiting a clearance by the Registry have not been hired
because the employer could not wait any longer for the clearance
to be done. Prospective foster and adoptive parents likewise might
give up in the middle of the screening process due to the wait.
Further, birth parents who are the subject of a report of abuse or
neglect may wait years to receive resolution of their case.
- Workers waste time reviewing reports that should have
been removed from the system (i.e., old unfounded reports).
Not only does this slow down the process, but it raises the possibility
that people may not be cleared for employment when they should be.
It may also cause a child protective worker to conduct an investigation
that is not warranted.
- Caseworkers have to re-enter data from duplicate manual records
because the system sometimes loses information entered. This wastes
precious time otherwise spent helping families.
James Purcell of COFCCA described the impact of losing case information to caseworkers in
"Perhaps the most frustrating occurrence for caseworkers
using Connections is the disappearance of case records into
cyberspace. When this happens, caseworkers must consult their
notes from the beginning of a case and re-enter all the information."
Problems with system slowness.
- The software is slow and cumbersome. CONNECTIONS was supposed
to reduce paperwork and improve caseworker productivity, freeing them up to spend
more time in the field. Instead, they find that the screens are slow, information
does not flow in an intuitive manner, and many more steps are required to perform
a function than in the old system. As a result, for Releases 1 through 3, caseworkers
spend more time on the system than before its implementation.
A computer system analyst with Suffolk County's Department of Social Services,
discussed this issue in a recent news article:
"[CONNECTIONS] was designed more for the convenience of
programmers than the users. It doesn't really follow a common-sense
Dr. Russell B. Norris testified about the cumbersome nature of the software, and the
experience of the staff of Lutheran Social Services of Metropolitan New York:
"Each foster home, for example, has a different screen
for address entry, phone entry, name, license, etc., and because
the system is so slow and unreliable, it takes an inordinate
amount of time to process even one re-certification."44
PEF members at the Child Abuse Registry also complain about the slowness of the
"Under the old system, it took about 15 minutes
to enter a standard child abuse report into the system.
Today it takes about one hour, and it is possible that
after an hour of work, the system will lose the information
that has been entered."45
Commissioner Edwin Miner estimated that from 1994 to 1996 (before CONNECTIONS was
implemented), caseworkers in Chautauqua County spent on average 1.8 days per week in
the office. The rest of the time was spent in the field. From 1997 to 1999, this
number jumped to 3.4 days per week in the office, an increase of almost 100%. He
explained the reason for the increase:
"What are they doing in the office? They're waiting.
They're waiting for the screen to come on. They're waiting
for the file to come up. They're waiting for the server to
come up. They're waiting. They're still waiting. And they're
still waiting. We've lost half the caseworker capacity."46
In March 1998, the Committees on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation and on Children
and Families held a joint public hearing on the State's Foster Care System. At this
hearing, Commissioner Merrifield testified that as designed, the pilot version of Release
4 was expected to dramatically increase caseworker time in the office even further, rather
than cutting it in half as she had hoped. She estimated that in Erie County, time spent
on recordkeeping would double from 40% to 80% for direct-care foster care caseworkers if
the pilot version of Release 4 were placed into production. This would leave them with
only 20% of their time to spend directly working with families and others to move cases
along.47 This is part of the reason that Release 4 has not yet been implemented.
- Hardware issues also contribute to problems with system speed. The following
computer hardware problems relating to system speed were identified:
- Problems with "Connections-in-a-box". CONNECTIONS
users access the system via one of three types of computers.
"Deskstations" are personal computers that are
directly wired into the network, and are located in agencies
that also have network file servers. Laptops are available
for dial-in access to the system via a modem, and are intended
to be used outside the office. "Connections-in-a-box"
(CIAB) machines are personal computers that also access the
system via a modem. These are used in small agencies or
satellite offices that do not have a network file server.
The Committees heard numerous complaints about the slowness
of the CIAB computers. This is apparently separate from the
slowness of the software in general. In late 1999, the Office
replaced these CIAB machines and half of the laptops to ensure
they were "Y2K-compliant". The new computers included
upgrades to the disk and modem, as well as a new CD reader.
Despite the upgrades, users are still experiencing problems.
Diana Farkas of St. Christopher-Ottilie, testified about
CIAB and laptop dial-in inconsistencies:
"CIAB sites have historically been the orphans in
this network system. Software updates are always behind
schedule, most of the Y2K replacements were received after
the New Year and dial-in procedures do not consistently work.
Most CIAB sites do not even bother dialing-in anymore, making
Commissioner Merrifield also commented:
"These [CIAB] computers are slow and wait so long for
a response to a function performed by a staff member that the
computer thinks nothing is going on and shuts down. This means
a loss of data inputted and precious time, and creates the need
to start the process all over again."49
- The network is slow. The Committees also learned of
other problems encountered on the network at various times, which
add to users' frustration. Some complain that as the software and
usage expanded, the infrastructure became outdated. Diana Farkas
"Connection time for work cluster sites can be very slow at
times for simple tasks such as logging on and off. Sending and
retrieving messages via e-mail can take up to minutes per message
depending on the time of day and network congestion. This is time
taken away from staff working."50
Mary Sullivan, representing CSEA, testified that members around the
State also complained about the network:
"The system is down at least twice a month and it cannot be
accessed for hours at a time. When it crashes, considerable amounts
of work can be lost."51
It should be noted that at the May 2000 public hearing in Albany, Assemblywoman
Susan John, then-Chair of the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee, requested
information relating to system performance and help desk activities. At the time of
this writing, the Office has not provided this information.
The Office has indicated it is reassessing the system's hardware infrastructure.
It is hoped that future upgrades to the network will adequately anticipate the number
of users and volume of data on the system.
Impacts to children and families due to the slow and cumbersome system.
- Caseworkers have less time to spend directly helping children and families.
Rather than reducing paperwork and increasing productivity, CONNECTIONS has caused
caseworkers to spend more time in the office and on the computer. This has reduced the
time they spend in the field working directly with children and families.
The CONNECTIONS functions used by each agency vary, as does the amount of time
estimated to be spent on CONNECTIONS at each agency. Commissioner Miner of Chautauqua
County had estimated that his caseworkers spend 3.4 days per week, or 68% of their time,
in the office. Commissioner Merrifield of Erie County estimated this figure to be about
40%. Marjorie McLoughlin, of Cardinal McCloskey Services, testified that her caseworkers
spend between 30% and 50% of their time doing paperwork and entering data into the system.
She told the Committees that her agency has been less able to serve the client population
as a result of CONNECTIONS.
"[V]ery soon we really won't see clients more than once.
We'll see them, put their name and information into the system,
and spend the rest of the time maintaining the system."52
Commissioner Merrifield testified that there has been disagreement between system users
and State officials as to whether CONNECTIONS can free up workers' time, or be time-demand
neutral, or use more time. The State has portrayed the system as a time-saver. However,
the user community has found that the system requires more time. Commissioner Merrifield
stressed that agreement on this issue should become a basic standard for improving the system:
"Counties strongly believe this is a bottom line requirement.
We can accept a system where some functions take more time if some
take less time, but on balance, is time-use neutral."53
The issue of time spent with families is expected to become even more critical as agencies
continue to work to meet the new requirements of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act
(ASFA). Because of ASFA's strict time constraints to move children into permanency, it is
even more important for caseworkers to work with families to help them achieve positive
results in a shorter period of time. Under the law, parental rights may be terminated if
reunification is not achieved during this period.
- Less efficient service delivery. Users have complained that the cumbersome
nature of the system has resulted in less efficient service delivery by caseworkers.
Much of this can be attributed to the additional time workers must spend doing data
entry and clerical work, rather than in face to face contacts with children and families.
Thomas Cetrino, representing PEF workers at the Child Abuse Registry testified:
"[O]ur members who use the system every day
believe they did their jobs better and more efficiently
with the old computer system, which was primarily developed
by State employees, and the manual operations in place
at the time."54
Mary Sullivan of CSEA, agreed that in many cases the system prevents workers from
doing their jobs effectively:
"According to our members, the system frequently
crashes, is inefficient and wastes time that should be
spent investigating child abuse cases. It has not saved
the state any money or improved services in any way."55
Commissioner Miner of Chautauqua County summed it up:
"[T]here are no commensurate efficiencies or
indirect benefits of this system."56
- Low employee morale. The additional work imposed on already overburdened
caseworkers has caused great frustration, aggravation and concern. As Thomas Cetrino
"Connections is the most frustrating computer
system in the entire State on which PEF members work."57
While many workers are aware of the State's recent efforts to fix the system, most feel
that these efforts are doomed to fail. This has contributed to low employee morale in a
service area where high turnover and employee burnout already are serious problems.
Workers fear that experienced people leaving out of frustration could impact service
delivery at the Child Abuse Registry. Mr. Cetrino continued:
"The problems with the CONNECTIONS system
have taken a toll on the people who work at the Child Abuse
Registry….Most employees transfer out of that unit as fast
as they can get another job. . . . Our most experienced
people who work at the registry are looking to leave their
jobs, and the loss of these employees will make the problems
in that unit even worse as there will be fewer and fewer
experienced people to train and help the new employees brought
in. We fear that the mission of the Child Abuse Registry could
be totally compromised if radical steps are not taken to improve
the working conditions there."58 (emphasis added)
Problems obtaining, moving, and repairing CONNECTIONS computers.
Over 14,000 CONNECTIONS computers and other related equipment was initially provided by
the State to local districts, contract agencies, and State workers at the Child Abuse
Registry. The equipment was allocated based on the number of caseworkers that were
expected to use the system directly. Thereafter, if an agency wanted to expand its
operations or give system access to non-caseworker staff (e.g. support staff or financial
personnel), it was required to purchase the equipment at its own expense. A description
of some of the key computer hardware problems that were identified during the Committees'
- Difficulties purchasing supplemental computers and moving
existing equipment. A serious issue in New York City has been
the inability of contract agencies to move existing CONNECTIONS
equipment or to purchase additional equipment. This equipment was
supposed to be available solely through IBM, at agreed upon prices.
However, the State put a moratorium on additional purchases of
equipment in 1998.
This has proven detrimental to agencies trying to provide services to families,
particularly in New York City where a Neighborhood-Based Child Welfare Services
initiative (discussed below) is being instituted. James Purcell of COFCCA testified
on this issue:
"We have been told the state believes that
the Connections system is vital to the daily operations
of child welfare; yet voluntary agencies cannot get State
approvals to make Connections viable. Agencies still
cannot move existing equipment, update it, or obtain
Since the May 2000 hearings, the Office has begun moving forward in the area of
equipment purchases and moves. Committee staff has been told that a Request for
Proposals (RFP) has been developed for additional equipment purchases, maintenance,
and site moves. A contract is anticipated to be in place in early 2001. In the
meantime, the Office has been providing users with some old, refurbished CONNECTIONS
computers. The Office has also contracted with several other vendors to do
installations, site surveys, and moves.
- Replacement equipment has been scarce. Agencies have also experienced
difficulties in obtaining replacement equipment. Dr. Russell B. Norris of
Lutheran Social Services of Metropolitan New York described his agency's
difficulties in obtaining replacement equipment following a devastating fire
at their headquarters in 1999. For nearly a year following the fire, the
agency had no link to CONNECTIONS. OCFS would not provide temporary or
replacement equipment. Staff had to carry paperwork to an OCFS office in
New York City to enter data into the system, and they did not have access
After many frustrating months of correspondence with State and ACS staff,
Lutheran Social Services finally received replacement equipment recycled
from another agency. However, the agency only received half of what they
originally had, the software on the machines was not upgraded, and the
machines were missing keyboards and mice.60
- Delays in equipment repairs and upgrades. The Committees
also heard testimony about delays in receiving equipment that had been
sent to OCFS for repairs and upgrades.
Diana Farkas of St. Christopher-Ottilie described the delays experienced by her agency:
"We had approximately 10 systems that had to be sent
to Albany for software reloads. The return is a minimum of
1 month - we've had more than 1 system that has taken up to
4 months. Since not every caseworker has their own computer
to begin with this creates a considerable hardship."61
Impacts of insufficient CONNECTIONS computers
- New York City providers are unable to meet decentralization requirements.
As noted above, a recent initiative to move toward neighborhood-based services in
New York City has been hampered by problems with CONNECTIONS.62 While this program
got underway after the initial design of CONNECTIONS -- the City's RFP was released
in 1998, and contracts with providers were entered into in 1999 -- the State was
slow to respond.
It is clear that such a dramatic change in service delivery would require additional
CONNECTIONS hardware infrastructure and computers for multiple locations, as well as
software modifications. Further, the Office knew of these needs as early as 1996.
However, it is apparent that the Office has been slow to act -- particularly with
regard to accommodating equipment purchases and site moves. The 1998 moratorium on
additional purchases of CONNECTIONS equipment has impacted the implementation of
decentralization by stalling the delivery of neighborhood-based services.
In some cases, provider agencies are trying to open new offices in the communities
they are contracted to serve under the new initiative. However, they have been denied
permission by the State to purchase new equipment for these offices. Instead,
caseworkers have had to shuttle paperwork back to their agency's main office for
data entry, wasting precious time. Agencies also have not been able to move equipment
from one location to another as they restructure their operations to accommodate the
neighborhood-based service system.
James F. Purcell of COFCCA testified before the Committees:
"On a systemic level, the most significant technology
problem facing child welfare agencies…is the continuing freeze
on approvals for moving and obtaining Connections computers.
These agencies cannot complete their moves to their assigned
community districts without Connections computers. Their
inability to access Connections is an obstacle to implementation
of New York City's Neighborhood Based Child Welfare Services Plan."
Marjorie McLoughlin also described the impact to Cardinal McCloskey Services:
"With the New York City RFP process we have expanded
our operations by opening offices in other community districts…
We also expanded during that period so we had to move social
workers. It took months and months to be able to move the equipment
with them, so the movement of the equipment slowed our ability to
be able to move into the community districts to deliver services
that the RFP mandated."64
Dr. Russell B. Norris of Lutheran Social Services of Metropolitan New York
explained that his agency had received a contract that would move a substantial
part of their caseload to Harlem, where they would have to purchase office space.
He described their dilemma:
"[W]e've been told by the Connections
system that it would be very unlikely that we could
have a direct line into the new offices in Harlem.
We're going to have to apparently continue to do our
input into the system through our offices here in
lower Manhattan which means, again, trucking
everything down that needs to be done…"65
- Agencies have been forced to do without computers for inordinate periods of time.
Difficulties obtaining replacement equipment and delays in receiving equipment repairs
and upgrades have impacted caseworkers' ability to do their jobs. The lack of equipment
creates a tremendous inconvenience for workers who have had to carry paper case files to
another location to enter into CONNECTIONS. This takes away from time that could be spent
working directly with children and families. Further, workers and administrators unable
to access the CONNECTIONS e-mail system may miss important policy notices and other information.
Many problems relating to the CONNECTIONS software were identified. Too numerous to list in
their entirety, some of the key issues raised and their impacts follow.
- The system, as implemented, is incomplete.
As discussed earlier, CONNECTIONS is only partially implemented.
Major parts of the system have not been rolled out -- including
Release 4 (the largest component, which was to provide case
management as well as fiscal capabilities such as payments and
claiming) and Release 5 (management reporting). In addition,
CONNECTIONS has not been modified to address system needs that
are necessary to meet new statutory requirements.
An example of such statutory changes is the far-reaching federal
Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), and the corresponding State
enacting legislation (Chapter 7, Laws of 1999), which require child
welfare providers to meet numerous new deadlines and requirements.
The State's child welfare information system should be expected
to help document and track many of these requirements. However,
so far, only a few changes have been incorporated into system
"Builds". Other needed ASFA changes have not yet been
made, as they mostly relate to case management which is part of
Release 4. Further, new federal regulations establishing performance
measures required under ASFA will undoubtedly require additional
changes to the system.
The Office has informed Committee staff that State workers use a
manual process, involving data from the old Child Care Review Service
(CCRS) system, to meet the ASFA requirement for tracking the time a
child spends in foster care. This information is then posted to the
local districts. Some districts use this data; others track it on
their own through databases they have developed or purchased specifically
to meet ASFA requirements.
- Caseworkers are only using the system for minimal requirements.
Because so many functions are not yet working adequately, caseworkers use
the system for only the most basic functions, such as electronic mail and
word processing. Cardinal McCloskey Services uses the CONNECTIONS foster
and adoptive home development module, which only enables them to register
and list foster and adoptive parents, and to type home study reports for
prospective foster parents. Marjorie McLoughlin, Executive Director of the
agency, said that she does not think the staff at her agency understand why
CONNECTIONS is needed:
"…[T]hey see it pretty much as a word-processing system because
that's all it's been to them."66
Workers must still depend on other State databases that are not integrated
with CONNECTIONS -- such as CCRS and the Welfare Management System (WMS) -
to provide information not available in CONNECTIONS. This requires more time
and effort by caseworkers, and involves duplicate data entry. In many locations,
workers must log on to at least 2 computers on their desks to access the various
separate databases. James Purcell of COFCCA testified:
"When the State announced the creation of its Connections
System, it promised a computer tracking and database that would
eliminate the need for the current unreliable Child Care Review
System (CCRS). Now, years later, voluntary agencies actually
have to maintain three or four separate data systems. Connections
must be integrated with local systems to create a system that
accommodates the multiple accountability systems in place-notably
Commissioner Merrifield stressed the importance of integrated information systems:
"The public rightly expects DSS to
have information from its left hand and right hand to link
key information together to effectively protect children."
Not only will linking various State systems help improve service delivery to
children and families, but it was one of the federal requirements of SACWIS systems.
- Inadequate management reports. CONNECTIONS was originally supposed
to provide managers around the State with ad hoc reporting capabilities as part
of Release 5. This Release was dropped in 1997 when other fixes and modifications
to the system were given a higher priority by the State, and costs started
escalating. Today, users are generally not satisfied with the few
"canned" reports that are available, and some feel they have lost
management reporting capabilities that were available under the prior system.
The Office has informed the Committees that State staff and Maximus staff are
in the process of developing a "data warehouse" that will enable
local reporting. This will replace what Release 5 was supposed to do.
However, a system to enable local reporting is not expected to be available
statewide until the end of 2001 at the earliest. In the meantime, local
districts and agencies have been left to their own devices -- at their
In New York City, ACS has taken the initiative to expand on the existing
canned reports. Among other things, ACS and Andersen Consulting (the original
developer of the CONNECTIONS software) designed a separate system for management
reporting. Commissioner Scoppetta testified:
"The State system does not provide local reporting
capabilities as part of Connections, but the State has
authorized ACS to develop this function on its own."
- New York City has had to do additional programming to comply with
local requirements and to improve operations. According to Commissioner
Scoppetta, ACS has contracted with Andersen Consulting for $11 million to
enhance the programs available through CONNECTIONS and to develop systems
that will meet the specific needs of New York City. This includes developing
specific placement functionality, enhancing some of the management tracking
functions, and developing a management reporting capability as described
above. He concluded:
"Allowing ACS to review case specific data in this manner will enable
caseworkers, supervisors and managers to make better informed decisions. This
ability is crucial to the efficient operation of ACS and will greatly enhance
the management of ACS operations and services."
While this work appears to fall within CONNECTIONS' original goal of improving
management information and decision making, ACS had to do this additional work on its own.
- Other specific software problems. In addition to the issues raised above, the
Committees learned of many problems relating to the specific software releases already in
place (i.e., Releases 1 through 3). Some of these problems are to be addressed in upcoming
Builds to be done by Andersen Consulting. Others are being discussed and priorities are
being set by the user work groups convened by the Office, and their status is unknown.
Still others relate to Release 4, which may be redesigned based on the upcoming reassessment.
Impacts of software deficiencies
- The incomplete CONNECTIONS software has slowed the implementation of New
York City's Neighborhood-Based Child Welfare Services initiative. Besides
the difficulties agencies have encountered obtaining computers (noted above),
CONNECTIONS' software deficiencies have also impacted this program. Release
4 of CONNECTIONS was supposed to provide placement functions integral to
this new program, which places children in foster homes in the children's
own community districts. ACS Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta testified
that in the meantime, ACS has had to contract separately with Andersen
Consulting to develop specific placement functionality. His agency is also
working with the State to make the placement portion of Release 4 operational
sooner than the rest of the module.
- Providers have been forced to develop alternative computer and
manual systems to track information CONNECTIONS does not track.
- Besides dealing with the programmatic implications of meeting the new
ASFA requirements, local districts and contract agencies have been burdened
with the added cost of developing additional tracking systems and entering
information into them. Agencies are also concerned about potential federal
disallowances if ASFA requirements cannot be documented. James Purcell of
"[A]s ASFA compliance monitoring begins we hope that OCFS will bear
some responsibility for not having provided promised monitoring capability."
- Providers also continue to maintain their own case management systems and
other State systems. This results in duplicate data entry and takes time away
from direct casework contacts.
In some instances, workers have developed work-arounds, both in CONNECTIONS
and through the use of paper files, to get past deficiencies in the system so
they can continue their work. This wastes time and perpetuates inaccurate data
in the system.
- The incomplete software and inadequate reports impact supervision and decision
making. Two of CONNECTIONS' original goals were i) to improve case decision making
and planning, and ii) to provide supervisory and management assistance in monitoring
and evaluating casework. As implemented, CONNECTIONS has fallen short of these goals
because the system is incomplete and does not track all data needed to achieve these
goals. In addition, the lack of local reporting capabilities has left supervisors
and staff without the tools they had hoped would improve the quality of services
and decision making.
Problems with system implementation.
Following are some examples of inadequacies in the planning and implementation of
CONNECTIONS that may have contributed to the problems with the system described above.
- Lack of user input. While some users felt they were adequately involved
in designing the system to meet their casework needs, others felt their recommendations
were ignored by the State and Andersen Consulting. ACS Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta
described the process that was followed:
"It appears that because of time pressure, New York State
rushed the development of a SACWIS and decided to convert a system
that had already been developed for another state, rather than
create a new system specifically designed for the needs of New
York State. The State did not fully consult the local districts
in the development of the system, and what consultation did take
place did not result in much local input in the initial design
State and county workers that use the system also complained that they have not been
involved in designing and fixing the system. Thomas Cetrino of PEF testified:
"The problems were compounded when OCFS management did not require the
consultant to spend adequate time defining the needs of the system users or
familiarizing themselves with the data they were working with."
Mary Sullivan, representing CSEA workers in the counties, had this to say about the
latest efforts to fix the system:
"Unfortunately, we think this effort is another waste
of taxpayer money and is doomed to fail. The reason is quite simple.
At no time during the planning or implementation of Connections has
there been any input sought from the people who actually use the system.
CSEA members who work in county social services districts have been
aware of problems with the system since its inception, but no
one would listen."74
This lack of user input helps to explain the dissatisfaction among users with
Release 4. Because their needs were not adequately considered, the product that
was delivered by Andersen Consulting did not represent what the users thought they
would be getting, and what, in fact, they needed to execute their responsibilities.
As will be discussed in more detail later, it appears that in trying to limit the
number of modifications to the Texas system, Andersen Consulting and the State
dropped some of the requested changes or "gaps" identified by users as
necessary to fulfill State requirements. The heavy involvement of the Governor's
office from the beginning, rather than the State agency which is more familiar
with the needs of users, certainly affected this result.
A November 1998 State Comptroller's audit of CONNECTIONS found that system users
were not adequately involved in system planning and testing. The audit charged that
these weaknesses resulted in delays, user dissatisfaction, and escalating costs.
Commissioner Johnson acknowledged the impact of this early lack of user input, noting:
"The audit report reveals the negative implications
of failing to adequately engage system stakeholders and not
developing the appropriate management infrastructure. We agree
that both of these steps must be taken if the project is to
The Office has acknowledged that it must gain user support in order for the system
to succeed. Such a requirement has been documented as vital by a recent study of SACWIS
systems in other states.76 The Governor's Review and Oversight Panel, formed in response
to the audit, issued recommendations in 1999. Based on these recommendations, the Office
has put into place a management structure that is intended to involve users -- at both
the front line and management levels -- in improving and developing the system. This
structure includes an overall Steering Committee, a Management Committee, and several
work groups focused on topical areas. The Committees heard from several witnesses that
are pleased with this structure so far. Deborah Merrifield, Erie County Social Services
"Improvements to the State's project management
structure are on the right track and provide for comprehensive
input and checks and balances on key assumptions of what is
needed and how to meet the need. The increased sensitivity
to the needs of the counties is evident in the active role
given to counties at all levels in the new project management
Despite the positive attitude of some users, the past experiences, low morale and
skepticism of others may continue to be a barrier to successful implementation. There
is still a feeling among front-line workers that the Office continues to ignore their
concerns. The unions representing caseworkers that use the system every day in the
local districts and the Child Abuse Registry report that their members are not involved
with the recently formed committees and workgroups. And some question whether the
Administration is truly interested in hearing about the problems that they are
- Project scope has kept expanding. Another problem has been that because of
poor planning, the goals and the scope of the project have kept evolving. This has
made it difficult to manage the project, and has increased the time needed to implement
the system. Marjorie McLoughlin of Cardinal McCloskey Services, boiled it down to this:
"From its inception in the mid 1990's, Connections
was intended to provide a consistent, Statewide tracking,
claiming and billing system and had it been limited to this
objective, we might have a working and useful network. Instead
it was decided that a system might be designed and implemented
that in fact could be all things to all people."
She believes it is important to scale back expectations to complete the project,
"… it is time to recognize that Connections has
been from the get go an overly ambitious and extraordinarily
Chautauqua County Social Services Commissioner Edwin Miner echoed these sentiments:
"From its beginning, Connections has been far more cumbersome and labor
intensive than the awkward and outdated paper system it was supposed to replace.
It was not designed with a vision for its interface with human beings. It is
neither intuitive nor logical. Finally, it is slow, tedious and potentially
Commissioner Merrifield commented that although many of the current priorities were
part of the original concept of CONNECTIONS,
"In many cases, the wrong diagnosis was applied
in the development of the system and what the State
hoped to achieve."81
In fact, the formal goals of the system have changed over time. While the initial
RFP for the system outlined the basic federal SACWIS requirements -- meeting federal
reporting and data collection and integration requirements, and providing more efficient,
economical and effective administration of child welfare programs -- the system was
gradually expected to do much more.
In December 1996, a Reform Plan developed by New York City's Administration for
Childrens' Services (ACS) anticipated that CONNECTIONS would help to significantly
improve operations at the troubled agency. The system was expected to reduce the
agency's reliance on 26 different, unconnected computer systems that required a
redundancy of paperwork. It was also expected to "empower caseworkers with
the tools they need to do their jobs, and create a positive work environment
for workers while improving their efficiency and productivity."
as will be discussed, the Office has invoked the CONNECTIONS system in more recent
years as the answer to numerous programmatic deficiencies cited in Comptroller audits.
The Office has recognized that the goals for CONNECTIONS must be streamlined to get
the project under control. In response to the Governor's Panel recommendations, the
goals have been revised and improved to reflect user-driven needs, which focus on
serving children and families and supporting basic casework practice in addition to
fulfilling technical requirements. Among the goals are supporting local flexibility
and access to data, creating better quality case records that reflect accurate data,
and eliminating unnecessary data entry and forms.
- Problems with the Help Desk. The help desk, originally operated jointly
by Andersen Consulting and IBM, is supposed to help users resolve hardware and
software problems.83 If a call cannot be resolved immediately, a "ticket"
is issued and referred to State staff for further action or investigation. In the
meantime, users often resort to work-arounds or alternative systems (including
paper backup) to get their work done while they are awaiting a resolution. The
Committees learned of long delays in resolving problems, and of confusion over what
services are available through the help desk. This has contributed to user
dissatisfaction, and has forced providers to resort to work arounds until the
problems identified can be fixed.
Dr. Russell B. Norris, Jr. of Lutheran Social Services of Metropolitan New York,
told of calling the help desk several times with a hardware problem and being told
different things each time. He concluded:
"So, there seemed to be a great deal of
confusion…regarding what kind of services were available
and what they could do for us. We find frequently we'll
call and we'll be told someone will get back to you, and
it may take several days or a week before someone does get
back to us. It's a very slow process."
Thomas Cetrino, of PEF, told of Hotline workers' frustration:
"Our members who called [the help desk] left
messages on a machine and, if they were lucky, their
problems would be handled weeks later. Meanwhile, our
members still had child abuse reports to file and
clearances to run. The people needing these services
could not wait for the weeks it took Andersen Consulting
to solve a problem. Generally, the solution was to file
a paper report until the report could be entered into
Diana Farkas, Personal Computer Manager at St. Christopher-Ottilie, complained
that the help desk is very slow and many staff are inexperienced:
"Many times staff is not adequately trained
or knowledgeable which adds to the amount of time to
resolve problems….Turnaround time is slow and tickets
are sometimes closed before they are resolved. Technicians
are not reporting back to the helpdesk when and what
components are repaired or replaced."
OCFS explained to Oversight Committee staff that when a problem requires
a modification to the software, the ticket is entered into a database.
An OCFS management team sets priorities and decides whether to incorporate
these tickets into the next software "Build". As of November 2000, there
were 1,038 unresolved tickets, out of almost 4,000 received since the project's
inception.87 The large number of unresolved problems further supports user
claims that the system does not meet their needs.
- Other implementation issues. Following are other issues brought to the
Committees' attention which have impacted implementation of the system:
- The agency initially switched over to the new system
(Releases 1 through 3) without adequately testing it. Problems
encountered thereafter had to be handled in the "live"
system, which presents a more difficult process for making corrections.
- Release 4 -- the bulk of the system -- was rejected by users
in pilot locations and as a result it was never rolled out statewide.
A key reason for their rejection is that it had not been adequately
tested, nor was their initial input adequately solicited and considered.
- Schedules for fixing and modifying the system keep getting pushed
back for a variety of reasons, frustrating users who see only limited improvements.
- Training and user manuals have been generally inadequate. Due to
high staff turnover, a large number of caseworkers do not know how to use
CONNECTIONS. Until they can be trained, they use manual case management
systems. The Office has informed the Committees that it recently expanded
its training program. (Andersen Consulting was originally responsible
for training under its contract. This was later dropped in exchange
for additional programming. A $4 million contract with the State University
of New York Research Foundation was added in 2000.) An assessment of
training was outside the scope of the Committees' investigation and
should be independently examined.
- Finding: Until CONNECTIONS is fixed and fully implemented, the problems
it was intended to remedy remain.
- Audit recommendations that CONNECTIONS was
supposed to address are still outstanding.
In March 2000, the State Comptroller issued several follow-ups to 1997 audits
of the State's child welfare programs. The Office had originally cited CONNECTIONS'
future capabilities as solutions to the audit recommendations. For example, the
Office had promoted CONNECTIONS' planned ability to generate detailed management reports,
and to track information about children in foster care and those freed for adoption, as
ways to increase monitoring of State programs. However, these case management and
reporting functions are part of the non-operational Release 4 and the "Data
Warehouse" that is currently under development.
In the follow-up audits, the Comptroller noted the continued unreliability of
CONNECTIONS, and criticized claims offered again and again by State officials that
CONNECTIONS is the "answer" to many of the audit recommendations:
"Every time there was a problem, OCFS said Connections was
the solution….But Connections itself has been a problem. This is
about children. If protecting children is important, then solving
the problems with Connections must be a priority."
A recurring recommendation in the follow-up audits was that, until CONNECTIONS
is fully operational, other steps should be taken to improve monitoring in areas
relating to: the Adoption Subsidy Program (audit report 98-F-27), Kinship Foster Care
(audit report 98-F-25), and Adjustments to Welfare and Food Stamps Benefits to
reflect placements in foster care (audit report 99-F-24). Specifically, the
Comptroller recommended the State perform formal monitoring of district compliance
through actual district site visits.
Until such formal monitoring is done by OCFS or its regional offices, it is
impossible to know whether State child welfare programs are being implemented as
required. Thus, children that are intended to be helped by these programs may not be
receiving needed services.
- Recent court settlements point to the need for a
functioning CONNECTIONS system to correct deficiencies.
Two recent court settlements cited in the Committees' earlier joint report,
LOSING OUR CHILDREN: An Examination of New York's Foster Care System,
underscore the need for a properly functioning child welfare information system.
The first settlement is of a federal class action lawsuit brought on behalf of
children in the City's child welfare system, against New York City and State child
welfare officials (Marisol A., v Rudolph W. Guiliani). The plaintiffs asserted
widespread failures by the City and State to adequately protect and serve children
in the New York City child welfare system. Among the charges was that the City's
case records were incomplete and did not adequately reflect services that may
or may not have been provided. In December 1998, settlement agreements were
reached with the City and State. These settlements were to expire in March 2001.
Under the City settlement, an independent Advisory Panel was created to assess
ACS' performance and issue recommendations and timetables for improving services
and agency administration. Such efforts continued through December 15, 2000.
Several of the Panel's recommendations highlighted areas where the implementation
of an up to speed and comprehensive CONNECTIONS system would be particularly
beneficial, especially in measuring performance indicators of the child welfare
system as a whole, and in monitoring ACS and contract agency staff performance
The Panel noted in its Final Report that such performance measurements of front
line and supervisory practice would be hampered rather than aided by CONNECTIONS,
as currently designed:
"Unfortunately, because of limitations in the State's
automated systems, breakdowns [of outcomes and indicators] by
worker and unit for contract agencies will not be possible."
The Panel explained the importance of knowing differences in performance at the
individual staff level as a critical step in strengthening front line practice in the
child welfare system, and concluded:
"The limitations of existing data systems will no
doubt make this a difficult process, but we think that it
is well worth undertaking."90
The State settlement, among other things, required OCFS to:
- Establish a New York City Regional Office to monitor child
welfare services in the City, and any needed corrective actions.
- Review ACS' child welfare case records to determine ACS'
compliance with applicable laws and casework practice, and
monitor corrective actions.
- Use reasonable efforts to implement an accurate and reliable
Statewide computer system (i.e., CONNECTIONS) at the earliest
practicable date, and continue to use reasonable efforts to correct
deficiencies or problems that currently exist or arise in the
operation of CONNECTIONS. OCFS is also directed to train ACS
workers on CONNECTIONS.
In January 2001, the plaintiffs went back to the court seeking to enforce the State
settlement and to extend the settlement period to ensure that all provisions are met.
The plaintiffs were not satisfied with the State's compliance with the settlement
provisions, including the requirement to use reasonable efforts to implement CONNECTIONS.
In their Memorandum of Law in support of their motion to the court, they stated:
"Every step of the way, this critically important
accountability device has been delayed, mishandled, and
mismanaged. Other than the hundreds of millions of taxpayer
dollars that have been poured into a non-functional computer
information system, the children of New York and the plaintiffs
on whose behalf this settlement was negotiated are still without
the protections of an adequate computerized state-wide information
The second suit (United States ex. Rel. Graber v. The City of New York, et. al.), settled
in November 1998 by the City and State, alleged that City officials developed a plan whereby
caseworkers filed false casework reports on hundreds of children in foster care, without
providing the needed services. The settlement required the City and State to pay back $49
million in federal foster care dollars. In addition, it required the City and State to provide
detailed information to the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) regarding
compliance with State and City foster care laws and policies. Notably, once the CONNECTIONS
child welfare computer system is finally implemented, the Office is required to provide ACF with
a computer terminal so it can access data on foster care cases.
This appears to be another instance where lack of oversight and incomplete case records have
resulted in penalties to the State. Until CONNECTIONS is fully functioning and can help detect
fraud and abuse, the State runs the risk of continued exposure to such actions.
- The Office should continue to work closely with the CONNECTIONS user community --
including local districts, contract agencies, and State workers -- to identify system
modifications that will address their needs and help them to achieve their mission.
The completed system, which originally promised to save caseworkers time, should at least
be time-demand neutral.
- The Committees reiterate their recommendation from their earlier report,
LOSING OUR CHILDREN, that the Office should significantly increase its supervision
of the local districts to ensure that State programs are being implemented as intended and
that children and families are being served. This is especially important in light of the
Comptroller's findings that CONNECTIONS has failed to fulfill its role as a tool to aid in
State agency oversight.
- The Committees also recommend that the State Comptroller continue to monitor the
Office's efforts to supervise local district operations.
- Until CONNECTIONS is operational, the Office should take interim steps to address
Comptroller audit recommendations, and should keep the Governor, Comptroller, and Legislature
apprised of these steps. Currently, agencies are only required to file with these entities
one report -- due 90 days after an audit is issued -- that shows their efforts to implement
audit recommendations. One report often does not present a full picture of an agency's
Legislation has been introduced (A.5626) to address
the need for continued monitoring of agency actions in response to audit recommendations
-- not just in the CONNECTIONS case. This bill would require that all audited agencies
continue providing 90 day updates to the Governor, Comptroller, and Legislature until
all agreed upon recommendations are implemented. It also provides that the Comptroller
may do follow-up audits to determine the extent to which recommendations have been implemented.
- Written testimony of OCFS Commissioner
John Johnson, p. 3.
- Ibid, p. 2.
- Written Testimony of Martin Cole, p. 1.
- Ibid, p. 3.
- Project Integrator RFP, June 23, 1999, p. 7.
- Maximus Proposal in response to OCFS' Project Integrator RFP,
July 23, 1999, p. III-1.
- Written testimony of OTDA Commissioner Brian Wing, p. 1.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p. 3.
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, p. 1.
- Written testimony of Edwin J. Miner, p.2.
- "Poor Equipment, Software Woes Plague Network",
The Daily News, September 5, 2000, p.2.
- "Downloading Disasters: How computers hinder state workers trying
to do their jobs", Newsday, December 4, 2000, p.A7.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.3.
- Ibid, p.5.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.4.
- Written testimony of Marjorie McLoughlin, p.2.
- Written testimony of Mary E. Sullivan, p.5.
- Source: OCFS' CONNECTIONS Project Quarterly Report for the period
October through December 2000.
- Written testimony of Deborah Merrifield, p.4.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.3.
- "Downloading Disasters", op.cit.
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, p.2.
- "Downloading Disasters", op.cit.
- Written testimony of Dr. Russell B. Norris, p. 2.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.4.
- May 23, 2000 public hearing transcript, p.192.
- March 18, 1998 public hearing transcript, pp. 189-191.
- Written testimony of Diana Farkas, p.1
- Written testimony of Deborah Merrifield, p.4.
- Written testimony of Diana Farkas, p.2.
- Written testimony of Mary E. Sullivan, p.3.
- New York City public hearing transcript, May 12, 2000, p.70.
- Written testimony of Deborah Merrifield, p.6.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.1.
- Written testimony of Mary E. Sullivan, p.2.
- Written testimony of Edwin J. Miner, p.3.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.4.
- Ibid, p.6.
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, p.5.
- Written testimony of Dr. Russell B. Norris, pp.1-2.
- Written testimony of Diana Farkas, p.1.
- This initiative was originally spearheaded by Assemblyman Green
in 1995. He authored legislation (Chapter 83, Laws of 1995) that
required New York City to establish at least 3 demonstration projects
that would provide decentralized child welfare services in local
communities. However, in 1996 ACS decided to implement the program
citywide instead, as part of its plan to reform the City's child
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, p.2.
- New York City public hearing transcript, p.61.
- Ibid, p.21.
- New York City public hearing transcript, p. 78.
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, pp. 5-6.
- Written testimony of Deborah Merrifield, p.5.
- Written testimony of Nicholas Scoppetta, p.6.
- Ibid, p.6.
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, p.6.
- Written testimony of Nicholas Scoppetta, p. 2.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p. 6.
- Written testimony of Mary E. Sullivan, pp.5-6.
- "Development of the CONNECTIONS System Supporting Child
Welfare Services", NYS Comptroller audit report 97-S-68, issued
11/17/98, p. B-1.
- Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information Systems --
SACWIS: An Experience in Technology Transfer, Beth Case and Eugene
J. Monaco, Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy,
SUNY Albany, May 18, 2000.
- Written testimony of Deborah Merrifield, p. 2.
- Written testimony of Marjorie McLaughlin, p.1.
- Ibid, p.3.
- Written testimony of Edwin Miner, p. 1.
- Written testimony of Deborah Merrifield, p. 7.
- Administration for Children's Services, Plan of Action, December
1996, p. 137.
- The Office advised Committee staff that IBM has taken over the
operation of the help desk through March 2002, and that the Office
plans to eventually merge the CONNECTIONS help desk with a larger one
that will handle problems with multiple agency systems.
- New York City public hearing transcript, p. 19.
- Written testimony of Thomas Cetrino, p.6.
- Written testimony of Diana Farkas, p.1.
- Source: OCFS SIR Report, 11/3/00.
- State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, March 1, 2000 Press Release,
"McCall: Lack of Leadership Delays CONNECTIONS Fix; Failed Computer
System Continues to Leave Children at Risk".
- Final Report, Special Child Welfare Advisory Panel, December
7, 2000, p.30.
- Ibid, p.47.
- Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order Directing
Compliance with Certain Provisions of the Marisol State Settlement Agreement
, submitted to the US District Court, Southern District of New York,
January 2, 2001.
III. PROCUREMENT ISSUES
In light of problems and issues raised about CONNECTIONS, the Committee on Oversight,
Analysis and Investigation went back to the project's beginning to try to answer the
question: How did we get here? This necessitated understanding the procurement process,
and the resulting contracts with IBM and Andersen Consulting.
Committee staff reviewed thousands of pages in the CONNECTIONS procurement record
and other documents, including a bid protest on file at the Comptroller's office, and
requested clarification from the Office when needed. The review sought to answer: Did
the agency follow the Procurement Stewardship Act and other laws in letting the CONNECTIONS
contracts? If so, did the Act itself contribute to some of the problems which resulted?
If it was not let in compliance with the Act, how and why not? Where did the process break
down? Does the procurement record clearly disclose steps followed and decisions made in the
procurement process, as the law requires? Did these actions lead to some of the problems
with the system today? Does the CONNECTIONS procurement offer any lessons on how the Act
might be improved?
This section first discusses the State's technology procurement process generally, and
then lays out findings relative to the CONNECTIONS procurement.
- Background of New York's Technology Procurement Process
As mentioned earlier, the purchase of computers and information technology, as well
as other goods and services purchased by State agencies, is governed by the State
Procurement Stewardship Act (the Act)92. This law, originally enacted in 1995, was
modified and extended in June 2000. The awarding of the CONNECTIONS contracts, which
began in late 1995, was governed by the Act.
A basic principle of the Act is to ensure fairness, transparency and objectivity in
conducting State procurements. It is also intended to promote competition and avoid
favoritism among vendors. The law states: "The objective of state procurement is
to facilitate each agency's mission while protecting the interests of the state
and its taxpayers and promoting fairness in contracting with the business community."
While lowest price is the basis for awarding contracts for commodities or goods, the
1995 Act established the principle of "best value" for purchasing services, including
information technology and computer hardware. Best value procurements seek the offerer
which optimizes quality, cost and efficiency, and give agencies greater flexibility in
selecting a proposal which best meets their needs.
To help ensure the fairness and transparency of State procurements, agencies are also
required to maintain a Procurement Record identifying -- with supporting documentation --
the decisions made and approach taken in the procurement process. The National Association
of State Purchasing Officials' (NASPO's) Principle and Practices suggest that "the
documentation ought to be sufficient to allow competing bidders or offerors, the public
and the press, and auditors the basis for the award decision….After award, the procurement
file should contain a record sufficient for a reader (perhaps some considerable time later)
to follow the course of the transaction, especially as to the method of evaluation and basis
Based on provisions of the Act, State agencies have established procedures for conducting
best value procurements, including issuing Requests for Proposals (RFP's) and evaluating
proposals received. Many of these procedures are detailed in Guidelines issued by the
State Procurement Council.95 The process described below, which DSS set up to determine best
value in the CONNECTIONS procurement, is similar to that which State agencies typically use
for other best value procurements.96
- The CONNECTIONS Procurement Process
DSS issued an RFP in July 1995 to potential vendors. This document laid out the minimum
technical specifications that vendors were required to meet in order to be considered
responsive. It also set forth general criteria against which the proposal would be evaluated,
and set a maximum score that could be achieved. DSS established a Technical Evaluation Committee
(TEC) first to identify detailed evaluation criteria and document them in the procurement record
before offers were received, and then to evaluate, score and rank the proposals received based on
these criteria. The scoring of these individual criteria were also documented in the procurement
record and summarized and tabulated in charts. Such an arithmetic scoring system enables a
potentially subjective assessment to be quantified, and lends credibility and objectivity to
the process. Proposals were to be ranked based on the total points received.
The agency also set up a Financial Evaluation Committee (FEC) to evaluate the price proposals
and determine which offers were within the competitive range established before offers were
received. Proposals were to be ranked based on total costs, including certain additional costs the
FEC determined would be incurred by the State to implement each proposal.
The TEC and FEC were comprised of agency personnel with expertise suitable to make such
evaluations. These committees operated separately from each other; neither committee knew the
issues raised or rankings given to the proposals by the other committee until the end of the
After offers were received and evaluated, the TEC and FEC were to submit reports including
the rankings and their recommendations to an over-arching Selection Committee. The Selection
Committee included management level personnel from DSS, plus non-voting representatives from
the Division of Budget and the State Comptroller. It was charged with evaluating the
recommendations of the TEC and the FEC and making a final recommendation to the DSS Commissioner.
The process originally established for the CONNECTIONS procurement is a fair characterization
of how other agencies are to conduct best value procurements. However, some of the changes DSS
made in the CONNECTIONS procurement may have had an impact on the problems that subsequently
occurred in the design and implementation of the CONNECTIONS system. Therefore, lessons to be
drawn from the way the process was followed in this case have implications on other procurements
in the State. As will be seen below, in numerous instances the established process broke down,
in disregard of the intent and spirit of the law.
Some of these issues were the subject of a bid protest filed with the Comptroller's Office by
Unisys Corp. Unisys was a partner with BDM Technologies Inc., one of the bidders in the CONNECTIONS
procurement. It should be noted that currently there is no statutorily required process for
vendors to follow in contesting the fairness of a procurement and resulting award. NASPO recommends
that procurement statutes require a procedure for resolving protests, complaints and contract
B. FINDINGS RELATING TO THE
- Finding: The evidence indicates that operating principles of the law were
violated, while in other instances, deficiencies in the law allowed for irregularities
in the procurement process.
Examples of violations and deficiencies: The Committee discovered the
following examples of instances where the agency bypassed provisions of the law.
- Fundamental changes were made in what the State
asked companies to deliver, and how the State judged what they offered.
Midway through the procurement, the Administration made
several critical changes to the RFP and the evaluation criteria,
in apparent contradiction of the law. These changes created
a moving target for vendors to respond to, and raise questions
about whether they may have favored the selected vendors.
Without conducting a new procurement, the agency decided to
consider a split award, after having solicited bids for a single
vendor. The original RFP requested vendors to propose a single,
integrated hardware/software solution. After receiving proposals
from four prime contractors in September 1995 (Andersen Consulting
LLP, AT&T Global Information Solutions, BDM Technologies, Inc., and
Integrated Systems Solutions Corp. -- ISSC -- a subsidiary of IBM),
DSS requested Best and Final Offers (BAFOs) from only these four
offerers in January 1996. The Best and Final RFP requested the vendors
to make three distinct proposals:
- an integrated solution (Full Project);
- a new proposal for the hardware and office
automation component only (Component 1);
- and a new proposal for the software
application only (Component 2).
The second change was that the agency altered several key evaluation criteria,
after initial proposals were received. Among the changes were: adding a seventh
criterion for an end-user prototype evaluation, changing the weights of the
scores for each of the criteria, changing the competitive range, and adding
new criteria to be considered by the Selection Committee in the final round.
As will be described next, each of these changes to the procurement were so
far-reaching that they appear to have violated the principles and legislative
intent of the Act. Example 3 will discuss other irregularities in the procurement
process established by DSS.
- Splitting the award should have required a new procurement. State
law is silent on the term "Best and Final Offer". According to the
Comptroller's Office, over the years the term has come to refer to State
agencies' practice of approaching vendors that have already submitted proposals
to ask them for their very best price. Accordingly, vendors are not intended
to be given an opportunity to submit totally new technical proposals. The law
does allow that: "Where provided in the solicitation, state agencies may
require clarification from offerers for purposes of assuring a full
understanding of responsiveness to the solicitation requirements."
(emphasis added) In the CONNECTIONS case, however, vendors were asked to submit
new technical proposals for the hardware and software components, not just
clarifications of their existing proposals or a lower price for the combined system.
Further, the principles of fairness and competition inherent in the Act were
compromised, at least in appearance, by changing the requirements midway through
the procurement. For example, in limiting the second round of proposals to only
the original four offerers, vendors that may have been able to bid on only one
component of the system (e.g., the hardware, consisting mostly of personal computers)
were excluded from competition. There is also the appearance that the decision to
split the bids, which was made after seeing the original proposals, may have
favored the selected vendors.
The Comptroller's office had expressed its concern that the change from a single
vendor to two vendors between the RFP and the BAFO was so great that it altered the
procurement and was inconsistent with the law. In a September 30, 1996 letter to DSS,
the Comptroller's office stated:
"We have serious concerns that the change from
an integrated solution to a bifurcated solution:
(i) altered the essential identity or main purpose of
the contract; and (ii) may have limited competition.
As a result, we have serious reservations as to whether
the process undertaken by DSS satisfies the requirements
of section 163 of the [State Finance Law], with respect
to best value procurements."
If the agency wanted to consider separate proposals for hardware and software, in
addition to a single vendor approach, then a) a new RFP should have been issued
requesting separate proposals; and b) the new RFP should have been distributed to all
potential vendors, not just the four who had bid on the original RFP. This would have
potentially opened up the procurement to more competition and a fairer process, and might
have resulted in a lower cost to the State.
- Evaluation criteria, against which proposals were judged, were changed after
seeing the original offers. First, evaluation criteria and their associated scores
changed between the RFP and the BAFO. Then, the Selection Committee substituted its own
limited evaluation criteria in making the final recommendation. Whether or not this is
consistent with the intent and the letter of the law was also the topic of a lawsuit
involving another DSS procurement that was pending at the time of the CONNECTIONS procurement
(Transactive Corp. v. D.S.S., 236 A.D.2d 48), and will be discussed below. Another issue
raised is whether these changes unfairly benefited ISSC and Andersen at the expense
of other offerers.
- Evaluation criteria changed between the original RFP and the Best and Final RFP
The 1995 Procurement Stewardship Act required that an agency:
"shall document in advance of the receipt
of offers, the determination of the evaluation criteria,
which whenever possible, shall be quantifiable, and the
process to be used in the determination of best value and
the manner in which the evaluation and selection shall
be conducted."99 (emphasis added).
This requirement was a key element of the statute's overall purpose of ensuring
fairness and avoiding favoritism. The underlying concern was that once an agency
knows what vendors are offering, evaluation criteria may be manipulated to help a
favored vendor, or at least create the appearance of impropriety.
The general idea of this provision is that an agency determines the criteria up
front, and locks them away in a vault until after bids are opened to ensure that none
are changed to benefit one vendor. The law also requires that the RFP disclose the
minimum specifications that must be met, the general manner in which the evaluation
and selection shall be conducted,100 and the relative weight of the cost criteria and
the technical criteria to be considered by the agency.101 However, as described below,
DSS subsequently changed the CONNECTIONS evaluation criteria, and the requirements of
the RFP, in January 1996, after it had evaluated the first round of offers.
DSS disclosed 6 general technical criteria and their maximum point scores in the
original RFP. The total maximum score possible was 110 points. In addition, DSS
established a competitive range of 12.5% for the Total Fixed Price Offer. This
meant that only technically qualified bidders whose offers fell within 12.5% of
the lowest priced technically qualified offer would be considered further. Based
on these criteria, the only qualified bidder within the competitive range was AT&T.
After the Best and Final RFP was released, several changes were made. First,
a seventh criterion--End User Prototype, was added by the agency. This involved
inviting a team of eventual end-users of the system to see a demonstration of
each proposal. The new criterion was worth an additional 15 points. Thus for the
Full Project proposal, the maximum score increased from 110 to 125 points. The
maximum scores for Component 1 and Component 2 proposals became 100 and 125 points,
respectively. Further, the scores for the seven individual technical criteria for
each proposal were also re-arranged, giving them different weights.
The BAFO RFP also changed the competitive range for the Component 1 and Component
2 proposals. The Component 1 competitive range was defined as all technically
acceptable proposals within 5% of the lowest fixed price offer. The Component 2
competitive range became all technically responsive proposals within 20% of the
lowest fixed price offer. The competitive range for the Full Project remained
These changes had the effect of placing in the competitive range additional vendors
who had been excluded by the original criteria due to their higher price offers.
Such a fundamental change after receiving the first round of offers creates the
appearance that the competitive ranges may have been changed to benefit one or more
vendors. The possibility that this action affected the fairness and competitiveness
of the procurement adds to the argument that a new procurement should have been done.
- Selection Committee established its own separate criteria for evaluating the proposals
Besides the changes in evaluation criteria, the Selection Committee further muddled
the evaluation process. The procurement record indicates that ultimately, the Selection
Committee abandoned the elaborate (and quantifiable) scores and recommendations of the TEC
and FEC in favor of its own limited criteria. This begs the question: Were these criteria
chosen after the second round of bids were received to ensure that ISSC and Andersen Consulting
would win the award?
Because more than one bid fell within the Best and Final competitive ranges, the Selection
Committee decided to conduct a "cost/benefit" analysis of these proposals, as
allowed in the RFP. The RFP does not define the elements of the cost/benefit analysis.
However, Procurement Council Guidelines issued at the time describe a recommended approach
for combining Technical and Financial Evaluation Results that involves adjusting the
rankings of the offerers' financial proposals to reflect value added by technical and
qualitative features of their proposals.102
The procurement record shows that rather than looking at additional technical
features of each proposal, in conjunction with the TEC and FEC scores and recommendations,
the analysis only focused on four elements, two of which were not previously disclosed as
evaluation criteria in the RFP or BAFO RFP (i.e., #2 and #4):
- Single vendor vs. multiple vendor approach
- Transfer of existing software technology vs. development of new technology
- End-user prototype score
- Minimizing state costs
The effect of this change was to nullify the arithmetic, objective scoring system originally
established by DSS to determine best value. It was replaced with a more subjective approach
that raises serious questions as to 1) whether the State got the best value, and 2) whether the
procurement was conducted fairly.
The legality of DSS' changing the evaluation criteria was a serious issue in the CONNECTIONS
procurement. The resolution of the issue is best understood in conjunction with a second
major DSS information technology procurement which was occurring virtually simultaneously with
the CONNECTIONS procurement. That second procurement was DSS' award of an "electronic
benefits transfer" (EBT) contract to Citicorp in February 1996.
The CONNECTIONS and EBT fact patterns were substantially the same. In each case, DSS
established evaluation criteria, issued an RFP, received offers, changed the evaluation
criteria, and then asked the original offerors for another round of offers, which the agency
called "best and final offers." In each case, a losing vendor filed a lawsuit
challenging the contract award, in part, because DSS illegally changed the evaluation criteria.
The losing vendors also filed protests with the Comptroller's Office , asking it to disapprove
the contracts, for the same reason.
DSS took the position that the language of SFL 163(7)--"in advance of the receipt of
offers"-- did not require an agency to set the evaluation criteria before the first
round of offers, but rather only before the last round of offers. In between, DSS argued,
an agency could change evaluation criteria as often as it wanted. The procedural histories
of the two cases were somewhat tortuous, but ultimately DSS won acceptance of its general
legal position on changing evaluation criteria. In the EBT case, the Comptroller and
Appellate Division ruled that an agency may change the evaluation criteria after the first
round of offers. Transactive Corp. v. Dept. of Social Services, 236 A.D.2d 48 (3d Dept. 1997)
In re Bid Protests With Respect to EBT Services Contract No. COO7589, 9/13/96 letter from OSC
to DSS, p.10.
The Comptroller's Office acceded to DSS' legal argument that evaluation criteria may be
changed in both the EBT and CONNECTIONS cases. However, at the same time that OSC was approving
the EBT contract, it was balking at approving the CONNECTIONS contract. CONNECTIONS' change from
an integrated contract to an bifurcated contract was just too much. As noted earlier, the Comptroller
had "serious reservations" that the change altered the essential identity of the contract,
and may have limited competition. Ultimately, the Comptroller approved the CONNECTIONS contracts
not as a best value procurement, but rather on an "emergency" basis (see Example 2 below).
In the 2000 negotiations to renew the Procurement Stewardship Act, then Committee Chair Parment
took the position that changing the evaluation criteria after the first round of offers was not
what the Legislature had intended originally.104
In order to achieve the purpose of ensuring
fairness and avoiding favoritism, the court's Transactive decision needed to be corrected.
To that end, section 163(7) of the renewed Act was amended to now require that evaluation
criteria must be established "in advance of the initial receipt of offers" (emphasis added).
- The fundamental changes made by the agency help explain why vendors do not know how they will
be judged. Potential vendors should be afforded the opportunity, up front, to know how their
proposals will be evaluated. Making vendors aware of what is expected of them can help better ensure
a truly competitive procurement, and can hopefully avoid misunderstandings between the vendor and the
State after contract award. It might also encourage more businesses to participate as offerers, thereby
increasing competition. And, it should help ensure bids that are more responsive to the State's needs.
The way decisions are made now by the Administration, vendors are often in the dark as to what
evaluation criteria are being used, and whether or not they are changed. As Martin Cole, Managing
Partner with Andersen Consulting, testified:
"I would like to say that I trust the system, but
I do not know that they don't change the rules. I don't
know what the rules are to begin with, often times."105
Mr. Cole agreed that it is possible that the rules for evaluating proposals might be created
after the proposal is submitted to an agency. This was certainly true in the CONNECTIONS case.
- At the eleventh hour DSS claimed the procurement to be an emergency. This action went beyond
the emergency exception allowed in the law.
The law defines an "Emergency" as "an urgent and unexpected requirement where
health and public safety or the conservation of public resources is at risk."106 It further
provides that: "Procurements made to meet emergencies arising from unforeseen causes, may
be made without a formal competitive process and shall only be made under unusual circumstances."
"Emergency" under the statute allows for a departure from the ordinary procurement
rule of lowest price or best value. It is intended, therefore, to be used under limited
circumstances. In the CONNECTIONS procurement, DSS seems to have gone beyond the intent of the
law in invoking this emergency exception.
The CONNECTIONS procurement began in July 1995 with DSS' release of the RFP as an ordinary,
non-emergency procurement. By August 1996, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the
Comptroller's office was reluctant to approve the contracts because DSS had bifurcated the
award without a new procurement, and probably violated the Procurement Stewardship Act.
According to the procurement record, it was not until September 26, 1996, 14 months after
the procurement began, that DSS invoked the "Emergency" exception to justify its
attempt to award the contracts to ISSC and Andersen Consulting.
According to the Comptroller's office and Procurement Council guidelines, emergencies should
be identified by an agency head or designee in advance of the procurement, and then certain steps
that would be required in a competitive procurement are waived. In the CONNECTIONS case, the
agency began the procurement as a competitive procurement, and at the eleventh hour deemed it an
emergency. No steps were officially waived.
The two arguments DSS gave for the emergency were: 1) the deadline for enhanced federal
funding was fast approaching (originally the deadline was September 30, 1996 -- but this was
extended to September 30, 1997 in August 1996, before DSS declared it an Emergency); and 2)
the crisis in child welfare administration, culminating in the tragic death of Elisa Izquierdo
in November 1995, which necessitated an improved system for tracking children.
The agency knew of both of these situations with sufficient time to have avoided declaring
Although the federal law regarding SACWIS requirements and federal funding was enacted in
August 1993, New York's RFP was not issued until almost 2 years later. The delay may have
in part been due to the change in administrations in 1995, however, this transition should
not justify an emergency situation. In fact, Procurement Council Guidelines repealed in
2000 stated: "An agency's failure to properly plan in advance which then results
in a situation in which normal practices cannot be followed does not constitute an
emergency."108 It is interesting to note that in July 2000 the Procurement Council
revised its guidelines and dropped this condition from the emergency provision.109 NASPO has
also established principles and suggested practices regarding emergencies, which state, in
part, instances where an emergency may be invoked:
"In addition to threats to life and property, an
emergency may include circumstances such as a delay in
transportation or an unanticipated volume of work. It should
never include a situation created by poor planning on the part
of using agencies."110
DSS' other argument for an emergency procurement -- i.e., the crisis in New York's child
welfare system -- also was known to the State agency and the public for some time. There is
no overstating the fact that serious problems in child welfare existed at the time of the
CONNECTIONS procurement; some of these problems continue today. Children had been languishing
in foster care since the 1980s. The length of stay of children in foster care had been
consistently above the national average. Tragic reports of children, previously known to
the system, who were subsequently victimized, were not new. Further, many of the antiquated,
unreliable state systems that were in place in 1996 had been in place for some time.
A key reason for the Committees' examination of the problems associated with CONNECTIONS
is to determine what, if any, additional negative impacts the system has had on children and
families, and to try to alleviate these problems. However, there was nothing unique about
circumstances in September 1996 that justified the agency's bypassing New York's competitive
Declaring this procurement an emergency was not consistent with statutory intent. The
agency declared an emergency at the eleventh hour when it appeared the Comptroller would
not otherwise approve the contracts because they did not comply with the legal requirements
for a normal competitive procurement. A main concern for the State Comptroller in considering
an emergency was the potential loss of $40 million in enhanced federal funding if the contracts
were not approved. Furthermore, the Comptroller was faced with the dilemma that much of the
work was already completed on the contracts while his office was reviewing them.
(see Example 5 below)
NASPO warns that creating emergency procurements in situations that are not, in fact,
emergencies, is one method used by agencies to circumvent procurement laws and rules in
order to obtain a preferred brand of an item or to avoid the competitive process. Even
the appearance of such circumvention can undermine the credibility of, and public confidence
in, the State's procurement practices.111
- Irregularities in the procurement process established by DSS to determine best
value led to a series of management overrides and miscalculations that drove the award process.
As mentioned above, DSS had established Technical and Financial evaluation committees
(TEC and FEC) to evaluate the technical and financial proposals. Pursuant to the RFP, the
TEC and FEC were to make recommendations to the Selection Committee, which in turn was to make
its recommendation to the Commissioner "based on the evaluation submitted by the TEC
Both the original RFP and the BAFO RFP further stipulated that if in the cost ranking,
other price offers were not within the competitive range of the lowest price offer, then
price would be the basis of selection.113 If more than one proposal was within the competitive
range, then the Selection Committee would perform a cost/benefit analysis which would provide
the basis of selection. As described earlier, this should have included adjusting the rankings
to reflect additional technical features of each proposal.
Ultimately, it appears that, in addition to the changes in evaluation criteria mentioned
earlier, the Administration consistently ignored or overrode the recommendations of the TEC
and the FEC. Described below are 3 examples where the established procurement process broke
down. Reasons for such actions should be disclosed clearly in the procurement record. Here,
key decisions and their rationale were missing from the procurement record, violating the
principle of transparency and the intent of the statute. As a result, doubts remain as to
the fairness and objectivity of this procurement.
- Recommendations resulting from the Original RFP were bypassed. For the
first round of offers, which were evaluated in November 1995, the TEC committee
ranked BDM first, with AT&T a close second. According to the TEC report, both
Andersen Consulting and ISSC needed to make substantial changes to be recommended.
The FEC Committee found that only the AT&T proposal was within the competitive
range.115 Based on the methodology in the RFP and the original evaluation criteria,
AT&T would therefore have been the selected vendor.
There was no original Selection Committee Report in the Procurement Record.
After repeated requests by the Committee, the Office did produce a draft report,
dated November 15, 1995. This report, consistent with the TEC and FEC findings,
supported an award to AT&T. A final version of the Selection Committee's report,
and documentation of the decision to reject the recommendation of AT&T, are both
missing from the Procurement Record. It is not clear from the Procurement Record
who recommended rejecting AT&T and requesting Best and Final Offers, and who approved
this idea. Rather, this information had to be pieced together from other documents
reviewed by Committee staff, primarily affidavits included in the bid protest file
obtained from the Comptroller's Office (discussed further below).
From these documents, it is apparent that the recommendation to reject the
Selection Committee's proposed award to AT&T and instead request split bids was made
by George Mitchell -- DSS' Deputy Commissioner for Systems Support and Information
Systems. Mr Mitchell became chair of the Selection Committee on November 15, 1995.
The affidavits show that in part, his recommendation was made because of an
understated number of computers and sites set out in the original RFP, and in part
because Mr. Mitchell was concerned that one vendor would not be able to complete
the whole project in time to receive enhanced federal funding. What is not clear
is whether other factors were involved in Mr. Mitchell's recommendation, and more
importantly, who made the final decision to proceed with it. It is disturbing
that such a key decision and who made it are not reflected in the official record.
- Recommendations resulting from the BAFO RFP were changed, then ignored.
For the second round of offers, which were evaluated in February 1996, there were
two versions each of the TEC and FEC reports with differing recommendations. These
reports were prepared only days apart and with no explanation as to what drove the
committees to change them.
The TEC made recommendations for each of the three proposals requested. In its
February 9 report, the TEC recommended the Full Project be awarded to AT&T; for
Component 1 (hardware) , either AT&T, BDM or ISSC were recommended; and for Component
2 (software) , BDM was recommended. The TEC chose BDM for the software proposal
because BDM's software was to be completely customized for New York (unlike the other
proposals which were based on transfer systems) and would therefore better meet
In its February 15 report, the TEC changed its recommendation for Component 2 to
AT&T, highlighting instead AT&T's proposed additional training resources. The fact
that AT&T's software was based on a transfer system was not mentioned. In both reports,
the TEC recommended against Andersen Consulting for either Component 1 or 2, saying
there would be major negative impacts if Andersen was paired with any other vendor.
This was based on Andersen's use of Novell Netware for the operating systems and systems
management and security tools, instead of Microsoft Windows NT, which the other vendors
proposed. Windows NT was being recommended as the Department's standard, but was not
included in the RFP specifications.
There were also two versions of the FEC report. On February 12, the FEC recommended
awarding the Full Project only, warning:
"[the FEC] does not recommend two awards. The FEC
believes that the risks outweigh the benefits in a 2 award
situation. The Department will incur higher costs under
the 2 award scenario. The inherent difficulties with
coordinating project management and technical issues with
two contractors may create negative costs for the
For the Full Project, there were two offers in the competitive range, BDM and ISSC.
The FEC recommended awarding the Full Project to the offeror with the highest technical
score. This would have been BDM. The report did note that if the decision was made to
split the award, it should go to the offerers with the highest technical score for each
Component within the competitive range.
On February 14, the FEC revised its report. While still recommending the Full Project,
the FEC softened its language against splitting the award. It also revised its computation
of offers within the competitive range. This resulted in more offers being considered.
Again, the FEC recommended that if there was to be a split award, it should go to the
offerers with the highest technical score for each Component within the competitive range.
If the Selection Committee had combined the second TEC and FEC recommendations, the
Full Project should have gone to BDM. If the project was split, Component 1 should have
gone to BDM or ISSC (both had the same technical score), and Component 2 should have gone
to AT&T, which ranked #1.
However, the Selection Committee's February 15, 1996 report indicates that the Selection
Committee ignored the recommendation of the FEC to award the full project, and likewise
ignored the recommendation of the TEC against Andersen Consulting. The Selection Committee
instead opted to do a cost/benefit analysis, basically wiping the slate clean concerning
technical scores. It is not clear who was responsible for this decision, but the possible
influence of the Governor's Office in overriding these recommendations (described below)
calls into question whether the TEC and FEC's roles really meant anything.
The Selection Committee report also shows that it instructed the TEC to contact all
the offerers and inquire as to whether their proposed systems could be changed to
accommodate the use of Windows NT. In response, the report says that all offerers
indicated that their proposed systems already utilized or could accommodate this change.
The result of the change was to reduce Andersen's negative impact from high to medium.
Oversight Committee staff did not find any record of these inquiries or responses in the
procurement record, nor any estimate of the cost such a change would require for any of
the proposals, including Andersen Consulting's proposal. This appears to be another
example of management override in the decision-making process.
It is impossible to know what kinds of problems would have been encountered if
another vendor or vendors were selected to build CONNECTIONS. But it is apparent that
the TEC and FEC had foreseen some of the potential problems that later came true. It
is also troubling that the record shows changes in the TEC and FEC recommendations just
days apart, without any documented explanation or additional analysis to support the
changes. It gives the appearance that the Selection Committee, or others, may have
influenced these changes. The Selection Committee should have documented its reason
for straying from the established procedure in making its recommendation. Based on a
review of the procurement record, such explanation was not documented.
- A technical error affected the recommendation of the Selection Committee.
As described earlier, the cost/benefit analysis focused on only 4 criteria. Not only
does this approach not consider the quantitative TEC and FEC scores, but one of the
criteria in the cost/benefit analysis -- Minimizing State Costs -- did not consider all
costs to the State. Specifically, it only included depreciation and interest costs added
to the offerers' proposals. It did not include the additional in-house costs the State
would incur to implement each offerer's proposal (interface costs, network circuits, and
operational support), as previously determined by DSS.
This technical omission had a significant impact on the Selection Committee's decision.
The Selection Committee's analysis found that the combination of ISSC for Component 1
and Andersen Consulting for Component 2 had the lowest cost to the State, totaling $33
million.118 (It is interesting to note that the next closest proposal was BDM for the
Full Project, with a State cost of $33.7 million. In hindsight, the difference of
$700,000 is miniscule compared to the additional costs the State has incurred to date.)
When Oversight Committee staff re-calculated the estimate to include the in-house
implementation costs, ISSC was paired instead with AT&T as the lowest cost combination.
- The Procurement Record is not in compliance with the law and does not
accurately reflect decisions made.
State law requires that "A procurement record shall be maintained for each procurement
identifying, with supporting documentation, decisions made by the commissioner or state
agency during the procurement process."119
As part of its review, the Oversight Committee requested and received the official Procurement
Record from the Administration. Committee staff reviewed many boxes of information--involving
thousands of pages of documents including vendor proposals--that were made available by the
Offices of Temporary and Disability Assistance and Children and Family Services. The official
record provided by the agency did not include documentation of change orders and contract
amendments made subsequent to contract award. This made it difficult to get a clear picture
of the entire procurement to date. Committee staff instead reviewed these documents at the
As discussed throughout this section, key decisions in the procurement were missing,
rendering the record incomplete, and in violation of the law.
Some examples of missing documents include:
- The transcript and documentation of an August 1995
ex-parte meeting held between then-Acting Commissioner
Brian Wing and IBM representatives to discuss the CONNECTIONS
procurement (see 6. below).
- As there was no Procurement Integrity Officer, there were
no reports filed about this meeting with IBM (see 6. below).
- The original report of the Selection Committee from November
1995, recommending AT&T as the successful bidder on the original
RFP (for an integrated hardware/software solution).
- Documentation that this recommendation was rejected, and by
whom, and the reason for the rejection.
- Documentation of the decision to request Best and Final Offers.
- Record of contacts with vendors by the TEC during the BAFO
evaluation to discuss their ability to accommodate the Microsoft
Windows NT operating system.
- Documentation of the reasons the TEC and FEC changed their
recommendations just days apart.
- Documentation of the reasons the Selection Committee ignored
the TEC and FEC recommendations.
- Contract amendments and change orders.
One goal of the Procurement Stewardship Act is to help ensure that the State's
procurement process is a transparent process: key decisions should be available
for public scrutiny, thus reducing the chances for fraud or favoritism. In other
words, the procurement record should stand alone. In the CONNECTIONS procurement,
this was not the case. Because of these missing documents, key questions about the
process and its fairness remain unanswered.
It should be noted that contract amendments and change orders must now be included
in the Procurement Record, due to amendments to the Procurement Stewardship Act proposed
by then-Chairman Parment during the 2000 renewal of the Act.
- Work began on the project before approval by the State Comptroller,
a pattern which continues today.
State law requires that "before any contract made for or by any state agency…shall
be executed or become effective, whenever such contract exceeds fifteen thousand dollars
in amount, it shall first be approved by the comptroller and filed in his office…"
The rationale for the law is, in part, to have an independent assessment of the legality
of the procurement process before New York State tax dollars are committed in the form
of a contract. The CONNECTIONS procurement illustrates how State agencies widely
disregard this provision of law, devaluing the approval process.
Although the original contracts between DSS and Andersen Consulting and ISSC were
dated March 18, 1996, they were not signed by DSS and the vendors until May, 9, 1996.
Federal approval was received in June 1996, and Office of the State Comptroller (OSC)
approval was not granted until September 30, 1996. Despite the missing approvals, work
on both contracts began months earlier in disregard of the law.
In March 1996, DSS began purchasing IBM equipment off another state contract, at a cost of
$5.48 million, for the purpose of CONNECTIONS. On May 16, 1996, DSS gave ISSC contingent
binding approval to begin installing equipment under the pending CONNECTIONS contract,
subject to Comptroller approval. Andersen Consulting also began work in April 1996,
before their contract was finalized.
The early work done by IBM and Andersen Consulting virtually locked the State into
continuing with these contractors, for better or for worse. Because substantial work was done
before the contracts were approved, and the original federal funding deadline was fast approaching,
it made it more difficult for OSC to disapprove the contracts.
This pattern of preempting Comptroller review continued with the related change orders and
contract amendments. For example, the first amendment to the Andersen contract, at a cost of
$28.5 million--an increase of 76%--was submitted to OSC on August 27, 1997. At the time it was
submitted, $23.5 million of the work was already done by the vendor. In addition, OSC felt added
pressure to approve the amendment because enhanced federal reimbursement would only be available
for invoices paid no later than September 30, 1997, the new deadline.
The problem has continued as late as 1999, with the contract for the Project Integrator, a
consultant brought in by the Administration to reassess CONNECTIONS. Maximus was selected as
the successful bidder for this contract in September 1999, pending formal approval by OSC. The
contract also had to be approved by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. Final
federal approval was received on March 30, 2000, and OSC approval was granted on April 10, 2000.
Yet Maximus began work in the Fall of 1999.
At the Albany hearing, Assemblyman Parment observed that it appears that the agency regularly
preempts the Comptroller review process, presenting a fait accompli to OSC. This leaves OSC with
a choice of approving the agency's actions, after the fact, or denying payment to a vendor which
has already delivered goods or services. First Deputy Comptroller Carl Carlucci agreed with this
representation, noting that OSC has to deal with this kind of problem on a regular basis, with the
CONNECTIONS procurement being a particularly large example. He noted:
"It's not what we want. It's not what we expect. But again,
this contract is larger, and more complex, and raises issues of how
well it is managed and coordinated. And to some extent…we find ourselves
in a position where in order to keep this project going, because we have
made the commitment, we were playing catch-up, to try to review the
actions of the agency."121
- The agency did not have a Procurement Integrity Officer as required by Executive Order.
Executive Order No. 189 -- "Limiting the influence of lobbyists on the State agency
procurement process" -- requires that reports be made to an agency's Procurement Integrity
Officer (a) by agency personnel who are involved in the contracting process and who have contact
with any employee or agent of a proposer, and (b) by any proposer of any similar contact.
Procurement Integrity Officer is an individual designated by each agency head to be responsible
for ensuring the observance of agency procedures for preventing improper lobbying influence.
Executive Order No. 189 was designed to effectuate State policy that:
- "the award of State procurement contracts shall be based solely
upon the merits of the competing proposals."
- "the State procurement process be protected from improper
influences by lobbyists in order to ensure that the contracting
process is fair and equitable."123
This furthers the goal of the State's procurement law to ensure all competing vendors in a procurement
have access to the same information, so that the playing field remains level, no one gets an unfair
advantage, and the selection process is fair, not only in fact, but also in appearance. Executive Order
No. 189 attempts to reduce the chance that a vendor will receive information that others do not have
access to, thereby biasing the award process.
In the CONNECTIONS case there clearly was contact that should have been reported and recorded.
In August 1995, after the RFP was released but before proposals were due, Acting Commissioner Brian
Wing convened a meeting requested by ISSC to discuss the CONNECTIONS procurement. No other bidders were
present. This meeting was later disclosed to the other bidders, and became a subject of the bid protest
filed by Unisys on the award to ISSC and Andersen Consulting.
Despite repeated requests by the Committee for reports to DSS' Procurement Integrity Officer during
the CONNECTIONS procurement, the agency failed to produce any reports. Shortly before the Albany hearing,
the Committee was informed that the Office had recently appointed a Procurement Integrity Officer.
According to Commissioner Johnson at the Albany hearing, this individual began serving in that capacity
the week of May 22, 2000. Prior to that there had been no Procurement Integrity Officer at the Office.
Thus, from at least 1995 through May 2000, the agency was not in compliance with Executive Order No. 189,
which was designed to detect and prevent improper contacts and lobbying by firms with proposals before
- Finding: Ultimately, the record is unclear as to who was responsible, and accountable, for many major
decisions in the CONNECTIONS project. What is clear is that the Governor's office played a critical role
in key decisions that led to problems that exist today.
Numerous documents related to the procurement, through the year 2000, reveal direct involvement
by the Governor's office in key decisions and project management relating to CONNECTIONS.
- Early involvement of the Governor's Office in the procurement process.
As discussed earlier, it is not clear from the Procurement Record who made key
decisions in awarding the CONNECTIONS contracts. This information had to be gleaned
from affidavits submitted in response to the bid protest filed by Unisys. According
to these documents, final decisions on awarding the CONNECTIONS contracts to Andersen
Consulting and ISSC were made by George Mitchell, an appointee of the Administration,
rather than then-Acting DSS Commissioner Brian Wing. Mr. Mitchell had previously been
involved in several large technology procurements in other state agencies. On November
16, 1995, Mr. Mitchell was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Systems Support and
Information Services for DSS. Commissioner Wing stated in his affidavit:
"In early October I was requested by the
Governor's Office to accept the reassignment of
George Mitchell from the Division of Criminal
Justice Services in anticipation of his appointment
as the Department's Deputy Commissioner for Systems
Support and Information Systems….Upon Mr. Mitchell's
arrival he assumed complete control of the Department's
SACWIS procurement and related SACWIS development."
In fact, Mr. Mitchell became involved in CONNECTIONS even before his appointment was official.
On November 15, 1995, he became Chair of the CONNECTIONS Selection Committee. According to his
affidavit, he made key decisions which were not documented in the Procurement Record:
"I was lead executive and made the
decision, later ratified by the Committee,
to pursue a Best and Final Offer and in the
development of the notice letter [to vendors]
of December 19, 1995 and chaired subsequent
vendor meetings and evaluation/award processes."
Mr. Mitchell was also the driving force in recommending the split bids in the Best and Final RFP:
"…I recommended that the Best and
Final notice require bidders to submit their
revised overall proposals along with separate
sub-proposals for Phase I and Phase II. This
approach would allow the Department to award
Phases I and II of the program to either one
vendor or to different vendors."126
Ultimately the Selection Committee, led by Mr. Mitchell, recommended awarding the contracts to
ISSC and Andersen Consulting. The procurement record does not indicate who the Selection Committee
report was sent to and who signed off on it. This information is also not included in the affidavits.
What is clear is that Commissioner Wing had little to say in the final decision. It appears as if
the Governor's Office and the Division of Budget played a stronger role in the decision than the
Commissioner. Mr. Mitchell described the process:
"I notified Commissioner Wing of the
Selection Committee's decision and made
presentations regarding our decision to the
Governor's Office and the Division of Budget.
Upon appropriate discussions with these bodies,
we entered into negotiations with the selected
Commissioner Wing confirmed his lack of involvement in the procurement. In fact, he described
his role in the decision-making process as "ministerial":
"Although I continued to receive
briefing materials on SACWIS developments,
Mr. Mitchell (and Larrey Nickles, his
successor) and I have had a clear understanding
that my responsibilities regarding SACWIS
would be ministerial and informational.
Accordingly, when I received the
recommendation of Mr. Mitchell and the
CONNECTIONS Selection Committee to award
the SACWIS contracts to Andersen Consulting
and ISSC, I ministerially ratified their
selections based on my confidence in the
abilities and impartiality of such
Without clear responsibility, there can be no accountability. This is a concern in the CONNECTIONS
case, where it has been difficult to ascertain who is accountable for the cost-overruns and the fact
that the system does not work as intended. What is clear is that it was an appointee of the Governor's
office who claimed responsibility for the decisions that overrode the quasi-scientific, arithmetic
methodology of the Technical and Financial Evaluation Committees. The end result was a procurement
based less on clear, discernable factors, and more on factors that were constantly evolving -- sometimes
with little apparent rationale or supporting documentation.
- Recent involvement of the Governor's Office in project implementation.
After the procurement, it appears that the Governor's Office was less directly involved in the early
stages of project implementation during 1996-1998. At least, such involvement is not apparent in records
made available to the Committee. However, in response to a stinging November 1998 State Comptroller
audit, the Governor's Office convened a special review Panel--external to DSS--to evaluate problems with
the system and make recommendations on how to proceed. Clearly, the Executive saw the project drifting
and took back the helm.
In March 1999, the Panel issued recommendations which included, among other things, appointing an
internal Project Manager who would report to the Governor's Office. The Panel also recommended
competitively contracting with an outside consultant, or "Project Integrator", to provide
quality assurance, help manage the contractors and state workers developing the system, and assess
whether to modify the existing software or start over. Both recommendations were implemented by the
The outside consultant is under contract with OCFS, but reports directly to the Governor's Project
Manager. In fact, the Committees learned that OCFS had only a non-voting role in evaluating and
selecting the successful bidder, Maximus. Instead, the Evaluation Committee was headed by Project
Manager Zachary Zambri, who reports to the Governor's Office of State Operations. It is clear,
therefore, that not only did the Governor's Office intervene to try to get the project back on track,
it continues to be heavily involved in the project.
- Who is accountable?
It is not necessarily inappropriate for the Governor's Office to be involved in a project of this
size and complexity, particularly given the problems that exist. In fact, the current involvement of
the Executive has been helpful in getting the project back on track and responding to users' needs.
However, it is essential that the Administration make known who is responsible and why. This will
help answer questions about the project that can be traced back to the procurement (e.g., the decision
to split the award), in the hopes of avoiding similar problems in future procurements. Unfortunately,
the procurement record leaves unanswered even the most basic question: Who was responsible for making
the final decision in the procurement?
Despite the ongoing involvement by the Governor's Office, no one in the Administration today can
speak to the entire history of the project. Anticipating this problem due to high turnover among
project staff and the restructuring of the agencies, the chairs of the three Assembly Committees sent
a letter to the Director of the Office of State Operations before the May 2000 hearings. They made it
clear that the hearings would include a comprehensive discussion regarding the project history and
management, and that they "hope and expect that the Administration's representatives at the hearing
will be able to fully speak to these issues."129
At the Albany hearing, Commissioners Wing and Johnson, and Project Manager Zambri, appeared together
to answer the Committees' questions. While collectively they answered many questions, they could not
answer some very fundamental ones. In particular, they could not provide clarification on decisions
made in the procurement process, the reports issued by the TEC and FEC, and even details of the first
amendment to the Andersen contract worth $28.5 million. This is troubling as these are areas that appear
to be linked to problems with the system today.
- Potential vendors should be afforded the opportunity, up front, to know how their
proposals will be evaluated. Making vendors aware of what is expected of them and what
the agency deems important can help better ensure a truly competitive procurement,
and can hopefully avoid misunderstandings between the vendor and the State after contract
award. The recent statutory change requiring that agencies not change evaluation criteria
after the receipt of initial offers hopefully clarifies the issue first brought up in the
Transactive case. Agencies should also disclose in the Request for Proposals (RFP), to
the maximum extent possible, the detailed evaluation criteria that will be used to select
the successful vendor.
- Executive Order No. 189 -- which requires each agency head to designate a Procurement
Integrity Officer to receive reports of contacts between agency personnel and vendors --
should be followed and enforced by the Executive. This Executive Order was intended to
preserve the integrity of the procurement process by preventing improper lobbying influences.
- Documentation of contacts that are required to be reported to the Procurement Integrity
Officer should be made part of the relevant procurement record.
- A formal mechanism should be established in statute so bidders have a right to
challenge what they think is an unfair procurement. The statute should set forth the broad
outline of the bid protest process, and require the Comptroller to implement the statute.
- The statute should require that, except in extraordinary circumstances, agencies must
disclose in the RFP the detailed evaluation criteria that will be used to select the
- Executive Order No. 189 should be codified in statute.
- The Emergency provision of the statute should be strengthened. This may be done in several
ways, which are not mutually exclusive:
- As previously recommended by the Assembly, codifying the
language of the Procurement Council Guidelines that stated
that an agency's failure to properly plan in advance does not
constitute an emergency.
- Requiring that an Emergency procurement be declared by
the Governor, rather than a management-level designee in
- Adopting language from Chapter 116, Laws of 2000,
amending section 3-0301 (2) of the Environmental Conservation
Law relating to construction emergencies, to, among other
things, clearly express the limited nature of such procurements.
- Legislation is needed to address the problem that State agencies proceed with implementing
contracts that have not yet been approved by the Comptroller. One approach is to establish some
mechanism to ensure that an agency does not preempt Comptroller review by accepting delivery of
goods or services before a contract receives the required approval.
- State Finance Law, article 11.
- State Finance Law section 163 (2).
- State & Local Government Purchasing Principles & Practices 1997,
5th edition, National Association of State Purchasing Officials, p.68.
- The State Procurement Council, established pursuant to section 161 of
the State Finance Law, is charged with establishing guidelines concerning
state procurement. Such guidelines do not carry the weight of statute or
regulation, however the Administration often maintains that agencies follow
them as if they did.
(See also footnote 110 below)
- As part of the Committee's broader examination of the procurement process,
Committee staff have examined the procurement records of a number of other
contracts, at DSS and other State agencies.
- State & Local Government Purchasing Principles & Practices 1997,
op. cit., p.94.
- State Finance Law section 163 (9) (c).
- State Finance Law section 163 (7).
- Although the individual evaluation criteria developed by an agency can be
very specific, they are only required to be disclosed generally in the
RFP. The RFP usually focuses more on technical specifications, rather than
on how they will be evaluated.
- State Finance Law section 163 (9) (b).
- Procurement Council Guidelines, Section 7 (V) (B) (4) (d).
- The Court of Appeals affirmed the Transactive decision on standing
grounds, without reaching the merits of the evaluation criteria issue.
92 N.Y.2d 579 (1998).
- Chairman Parment's view was colored by a 1994 joint investigation by the
State Attorney General and State Inspector General of DSS procurement
practices. Their report was highly critical of changing evaluation criteria
and found that best and final offers should be used only to get a better
price, and not to change technical criteria. Report of Investigation
Concerning Computer Procurement at the New York Department of Social Service,
and Related Matters, issued 12/28/94, pp.56-57.
- Albany public hearing transcript, May 23, 2000, p. 268.
- State Finance Law section 163 (1) (b).
- State Finance Law section 163 (10) (b).
- State Procurement Council Guidelines section 4 (G).
- This action occurred shortly after the Administration refused to codify
this guideline as part of the modification and extension of the Act. The
Assembly had wanted to strengthen the emergency provision of the Act by adding
this provision. The Administration argued in this case that the Guidelines are
suggestions and are not supposed to be enforced like law. In other words, they
did not want to enforce this provision.
(See also footnote 96)
- State & Local Government Purchasing Principles & Practices 1997,
op. cit., p.63.
- Ibid, p.97.
- CONNECTIONS RFP, section 8.4, p.164-165.
- CONNECTIONS RFP, section 8.11, p.170.
- TEC Committee Report, November 22, 1995.
- FEC Committee Report, November 14, 1995.
- FEC Committee Report, February 12, 1996, p. 3.
- It should be noted that Andersen was the only vendor not already using
Windows NT or partially using Windows NT.
- Selection Committee Report, p.11.
- State Finance Law section 163 (9) (g).
- State Finance Law section 112 (2) (a)
- Albany public hearing transcript, p. 23.
- Executive Order No. 189, paragraph IV(B)(6).
- Ibid, preamble.
- Brian Wing affidavit submitted to the State Comptroller, July 22, 1996,
- George Mitchell affidavit submitted to the State Comptroller, July 22,
1996, paragraph 2.
- Mitchell affidavit, paragraph 7.
- Mitchell affidavit, paragraph 11.
- Wing affidavit, paragraph 9.
- May 8, 2000 letter from Assemblymembers Green, John and Parment to Mr.
James Natoli, Director, Office of State Operations.
IV. CONTRACT MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION
A necessary outgrowth of the Committee's examination of the CONNECTIONS
procurement was to understand the process by which vendor contracts were negotiated and implemented
and the Office's management of the project as a whole. The goal was to gain further insight into
how some of the problems with CONNECTIONS arose, and to learn from past mistakes to avoid them in
future technology procurements.
The Committee's inquiry involved an extensive examination of the original contracts
with ISSC and Andersen Consulting, related change orders and contract amendments, and planning documents
submitted to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. Meetings and discussions with
representatives of the Administration, State workers, the Federal Government, and the Comptroller's
Office were conducted. In addition, several witnesses at the public hearings discussed project management
issues they had encountered first hand.
- Finding: The State agency failed to adequately manage the
contracts and project implementation.
From the start, the Financial Evaluation Committee (FEC) warned DSS that hiring two vendors
and placing the State in the role of project coordinator was a risky and potentially costly
endeavor. As a result, the FEC recommended against awarding the project to two vendors.
This position supports the belief held by many that one contract with one vendor is easier
to enforce than multiple contracts, where lines of responsibility may be blurred.
In hindsight, the FEC's predictions have proven all too true. First, contract costs have
almost doubled with no end in sight. Second, the State has become an intermediary between two
vendors, making it difficult to hold either accountable. Third, a lack of commitment by the
administration to provide adequate staff resources dedicated to the project has resulted in
yet another consultant being hired to fill the State's role and regain control. There was
also a general lack of clarity in the contract requirements--particularly for the software
application--that created misunderstandings between the State and the contractor when the
product was delivered. The result was confusion and delays, and possibly costly change orders.
The State Comptroller's audit of CONNECTIONS noted the following deficiencies in project
development and implementation:130
- System users were not adequately involved in the design
and testing of the system. As a result, the system is not
working as intended, it does not meet casework processes,
practices and policy, and there is widespread user dissatisfaction.
- In order to meet Federal funding deadlines, tests of system
design were not always completed. As a result, problems that
should have been discovered during testing were not found until
the system was placed into production.
- Agency procedures for monitoring project progress and contract
completion were deficient or lacking.
- Improvements in agency controls were needed to ensure that
change order requirements were provided as efficiently and
effectively as possible, at fair prices, and services paid
for were not covered by the original contracts.
- The Comptroller concluded that unless changes were made
in the implementation of CONNECTIONS, there was a substantial
risk that the project would not be successfully implemented,
jeopardizing $120 million in federal funds.
In an October 1999 follow-up audit, the auditors found that the Office had implemented
many of the audit recommendations, including convening stakeholders and improving controls.
But, since few changes have been made to the system since 1998, it is too early to tell
what the end result will be.
The Administration recognizes some of these past mistakes. Project Manager Zachary
"When looking at the decisions that were made
along the way, each and every one was well intended and
seemed to make sense at the time. However, with the
benefit of hindsight, we realize that numerous problems
resulted from decisions that were made to meet a schedule
that would maximize federal reimbursement."131
- Finding: The contract and amendments negotiated with Andersen Consulting
contributed to current problems with the system.
- The contract does not reflect what was asked for in the RFP.
The RFP specified that the CONNECTIONS procurement was to result in a fixed-price contract
with specific hardware and software deliverables. The RFP did allow that if the State altered
the scope of work, causing an increase or decrease in the contractor's effort, it would negotiate
with the contractor to arrive at a price adjustment and actions to be taken.
Under the negotiated contract price of $37.5 million, Andersen Consulting was to provide a
SACWIS system-- known as CAPS--which it had developed for Texas' centralized child welfare
system, plus a fixed number of days' work (5,448 days) to modify it to fit New York's needs.
On its face, it appears that the contract called for a specific product at a fixed price.
However, a question that was not directly addressed was: what if the specified number of
days were not sufficient for Andersen to adequately tailor the system to meet New York's needs?
According to Andersen's financial proposal: "Our Best and Final price offer reflects
our assumption that the State will agree to work with us to limit modifications to only those
essential changes which can be delivered with approximately the effort included in the proposal.
This equals 1,406 days for SCR Intake, 2,596 days for Case Management, and 1,446 days for the
Financial Management initiatives. We believe that this effort is more than adequate to make
the necessary modifications to CAPS to meet your requirements. Any non essential changes or
enhancements identified during the pilot or statewide rollout would be deferred until the system
is in production statewide."132
The negotiated contract does provide for payments for ongoing application software maintenance
based on hourly rates.133 This provision opened the door for further scope of work changes.
- The first change order changed the agreement to a time-and-materials basis.
It turns out that DSS and Andersen severely underestimated New York's requirements and the
changes that would be needed to make Texas' state-administered system work for New York's
decentralized operation. Shortly after the contract was signed, DSS and Andersen convened a
group of users from around the State to review the Texas system and identify "gaps"
between what the users perceived they wanted and how the base software operated. A total of
811 gaps were identified. The work involved to incorporate all 811 changes far exceeded the
allotted 5,448 days, so the State reduced the number of gaps to be addressed to 326, reflecting
only those items DSS deemed most critical.134 The work effort involved to implement these 326
items, plus additional requirements to conform to changes in State law and to meet unique needs
of New York City, still far exceeded the original 5,448-day limit. The excess work then became
the basis of a 1997 contract amendment totaling $28.5 million.135
Martin Cole, Managing Partner at Andersen Consulting, testified at the Committees' hearings
about the extent of the work involved in this first amendment:
"The application development work effort increased
more than five fold, from fewer than 5,500 work days
to more than 28,000 work days."
This amendment notably changed the agreement from a fixed-price contract to one based on
time-and-materials. According to the amendment: "Actual effort spent over and above
the 5,448 person-days will be billed separately to the State by Andersen…"
136 The amendment
specified hourly billing rates for time spent to perform the work. It also provided that
any additional scope changes after the initial release of CONNECTIONS would again be covered
by the contract's application software maintenance provision, on a per-hour basis.
- The original contract did not include changes required by State law.
The first amendment included, among other things, programming to ensure the system is in
compliance with New York State's Elisa's Law (Chapter 12, Laws of 1996). This law made significant
changes to procedures used by the State Central Registry of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (Child
Abuse Registry) including the length of time reports to the registry must be kept, access to
confidential records, and other statewide policies and procedures.
DSS knew that Elisa's Law would require changes to CONNECTIONS as described in the RFP.
Although the original proposals were already being evaluated at the time Elisa's Law was
signed, the impact of the new law certainly could have been, and should have been, considered
at the time of contract negotiations. The National Association of State Purchasing Officials
(NASPO) has stated regarding post-contract changes: "In no case should a vendor be
promised before award that the performance requirements will change in its favor after the
contract award. Additionally, solicitation performance requirements should not be changed
during contract performance except through an authorized change order to the contract, and
only where the change does not materially alter the nature of the contract, and could reasonably
have been within the contemplation of the parties at the time it was awarded."
Elisa's Law was enacted on February 12, 1996, shortly before the vendors were selected and
contract negotiations began. The original contract with Andersen Consulting was not signed
until May 9, 1996, and was not approved by the Comptroller's office until September 1996 --
six months after Elisa's Law was enacted. All along, the State and Andersen knew that
additional work would be necessary to integrate Elisa's Law into the Texas system, but the
State failed to notify the Comptroller's office of the pending contract increase.
Although the parties knew about Elisa's Law, the final contract amendment was not drafted
by Andersen until December 1996. This was submitted to the Comptroller on August 27, 1997 --
18 months after the law was enacted. It appears that Andersen had been working on the needed
changes for some time before that, however, because 95% of the work requested by the State was
completed by the time the contract amendment was submitted for approval. The cost to incorporate
Elisa's Law was $5,467,472,138 an increase of 15% over the original contract.
This work could have been part of the original contract negotiations, and hence, the work
could have begun earlier. At the very least, the agency should have assessed the impact of
Elisa's Law up front as soon as it could be determined. Then it could have put the Comptroller's
office on notice that a change order increasing the contract pending before it would be coming.
Not providing such a courtesy to the Comptroller creates the appearance that the agency was not
- Subsequent change orders show that the State and Andersen still
underestimated the amount of work needed to meet New York's needs.
Although amendment #1 included 326 of the gaps between the Texas system and New York's needs,
this represented only 40% of the gaps identified by users during the design and planning stage.
This contributed to user dissatisfaction with the system; many have said that the system delivered
does not reflect what they thought they were getting.
Further, problems with Texas' software were carried forward by Andersen into New York's
system. Despite early visits to Texas by New York State officials to learn about problems
Texas encountered in implementing the Andersen software, the Comptroller's auditors found many
of the same problems persist in New York's system.139
The Comptroller's audit has called into question whether some of the work billed under
amendment #1 should have been covered by the original contract:
"We found that OCFS officials had not
designated anyone to be responsible for ensuring
that tasks performed by Andersen under the change
order were not included in the scope of the original
contract. Consequently, OCFS has no assurance that
the State has not been charged more than once for
the same tasks."140
In response, Commissioner Johnson acknowledged the shortcomings of the change order process,
and promised that revised procedures would be implemented. The October 1999 follow up audit,
however, found they were only partially implemented.141
The Office has indicated that Maximus
has assumed the role of evaluating proposed change orders, their prices and the goods and
In 1999, in accordance with the Governor's Review Panel's recommendations, the Office
convened major stakeholders and system users to identify critical Release 2 and 3 fixes needed
to make the parts of the system already in place functional. In early 2000, several contract
amendments were proposed totaling $34 million, bringing the contract total to over $100 million.
While some of the work involved was new, much of it was intended to eliminate significant
"work-arounds" that child welfare caseworkers had developed out of necessity because
the system still did not meet their needs.
Despite the significant additional work being performed by Andersen, the system will still
not be complete when they are done. Release 4, the biggest part of the system, is still not
operational, and the Office does not yet know how much effort and money will be involved in
- The current system does not provide federal reports, a requirement of the RFP.
As designed, CONNECTIONS was supposed to produce biennial reports to the federal Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS) on key foster care and adoption statistics. This was a key
requirement of the RFP, and one of the principal goals of CONNECTIONS. The Adoption and Foster
Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data was to have come from information gathered in
Release 4 of CONNECTIONS.
Andersen Consulting says that as delivered, Release 4 does meet AFCARS reporting requirements,
as well as National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) requirements. Because Release
4 is not yet operational, complete data are not being reported as required. As a result, New
York has been assessed $3.3 million in federal AFCARS penalties to date, and faces an additional
$817,000 for the second half of federal fiscal year 1999-2000. The State will continue to be
non-compliant until Release 4 or its replacement is implemented, facing annual penalties of
New York, along with several other states, is appealing the penalties assessed to date. At
the time this report was written, the appeal had not been resolved. Until then, HHS has placed
the penalties on hold.
- The contract language left the State in a poor position to enforce the contract.
The various liability provisions of the original contract between DSS and Andersen Consulting
were vaguely drafted, and included a jumble of cross-references and apparent inconsistencies.
Consequently, assessing the State's possibilities for legal recourse against Andersen is
difficult, at best. But, it is fair to characterize the problems with the contract's liability
provisions as generally working to the detriment of the State.
Following are some of the problems with the original contract:
- Liability limitation was poorly drafted. The contract
set a cap of $20 million on Andersen's liability, until the
end of "scheduled implementation", which was
defined as "the first to occur of April 30, 1997 or
the completion of the timely installation and production
use of the next release of the CONNECTIONS application
This liability limitation included loss
of enhanced federal matching funds. After April 30, 1997,
Andersen's liability was reduced to the greater of $1
million or the fees paid to Andersen during the fiscal year
the claim arose. According to the Best and Final RFP, the
complete system was not even scheduled to be implemented
until January 15, 1998. Therefore, the April 30, 1997 date
was unrealistic and clearly favored Andersen. Whether
Andersen's performance prior to April 30, 1997 caused
damages to the State, and how much damage, cannot be gleaned
from the documents made available to the Oversight Committee.
- Liquidated damages further limited the State's recourse.
In the post April 30, 1997 period, the contract further
limited the State to an "exclusive remedy" of the
Liquidated Damages clause of the contract, for a maximum of
$25,000 dollars per day. These liquidated damages
specifications are quite detailed and are generally measured
by "downtime" for software, and "response
time" for the system itself. The contract is silent
on the measurement of liquidated damages for a poorly designed
system which users just can't follow. And, since "liquidated
damages" is the State's exclusive remedy, OCFS arguably
may have no recourse for this problem.
- Changes were made to the contract after it was signed.
There were numerous instances of changes made to the
contract's liability provisions -- including striking out
sentences and initialing the changes by the parties to
the contract -- after the contract was signed. In one
case, a change was only initialed by one party. Such
changes, even though they occurred after the contract was
signed, appear to have had the impact of further limiting
the State's recourse against Andersen.
Despite the many problems with the CONNECTIONS system and the urging of the federal government,
the Office has not sought to recoup damages from Andersen in accordance with provisions of the
contract. This in part can be attributed to the weak position the State was in as a result of
the original contract language. The Office did withhold payment on invoices submitted by Andersen
in 1998 and 1999, because of questions as to whether the contractor had adequately delivered the
One of the contract amendments entered into by the State and Andersen in 2000 included a
settlement of the outstanding invoices and changes to the liability provisions of the contract.
Because of trade-offs that were made, the State may be in a better position to enforce the
contract, but barely so. It is difficult to identify the dollar impact of the liability changes
made, particularly because it appears that the Office didn't make a precise assessment of the
risks and possible rewards of litigation.
In negotiating the terms of the original contract and subsequent amendments, it appears the
State was being led by the vendor, who has more expertise in negotiating complex computer
technology contracts. State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, whose office is responsible for reviewing
all contracts over $15,000, recently commented on this problem:
"We're overly dependent on the vendors.
The users are on the outside and the vendors are
calling all the shots. The companies that provide
these services are very good in selling them. I
don't think the state is up to speed in buying them."
There is clearly a need for the State to improve its ability to negotiate and manage complex
technology contracts. This is especially important in light of recent large information technology
initiatives the State has committed to (e.g., OTDA's Welfare Management System, and the Department
of Health's Medicaid Management Information System), as well as other large computer projects the
State will continue to enter into in the foreseeable future. While the Administration's Office
for Technology (OFT) has recently initiated programs to help negotiate and manage such projects,
these efforts do not go far enough.
Andersen's proprietary software potentially locks the State into
hiring Andersen for future modifications.
Andersen Consulting used a computer programming language -- owned solely by Andersen -- known
as "Foundation for Cooperative Processing" (Foundation) to aid in design of the
CONNECTIONS software. Andersen developed Foundation for use in designing systems for its
customers. However, few other consulting firms used it at the time Andersen was selected to
build CONNECTIONS. The State has obtained a license to use Foundation as part of its contract
with Andersen, but few State workers are trained to use it. The use of Foundation has proven
problematic to the State in several ways.
Requirements by the Federal Government and the State Legislature that additional work be
competitively bid caused the State to look for others that could work in Foundation. In 1999,
the State conducted a Request For Information to find firms or individuals that could continue
work on CONNECTIONS. No firms were found to be able to provide a significant number of programming
staff skilled in the use of Foundation.144
This has left the State in the position of potentially hiring Andersen as a sole-source
contractor to finish the work simply because no one else can do it. Because of the historical
problems described above, this would not be the preferred choice. Further, the Federal Government
has indicated that it will not approve such an action. In correspondence to the Office, ACF states:
"While the State and contractor had previously
provided assurances to ACF that this product was
commercially available, the fact that no other vendors
appear to have acquired or used this product has resulted
in the State being potentially locked into a proprietary
situation with a single vendor. This justification could
be used to acquire continuing support services with this
vendor on a sole source basis, without any possibility
that another vendor could ever compete. This situation
is not acceptable."145
The State Legislature has also required that State funds for additional developmental work will
only be made available after a competitive procurement. However, it appears that even if an RFP is
issued, Andersen Consulting may be the only vendor able to bid.
An alternative is to train State workers to do the job. The Committee is aware that the Office
is in the process of hiring and training computer professionals to maintain CONNECTIONS once
Andersen's contract runs out. While cautiously optimistic about this effort, it remains to be seen
whether the new staff would be ready in time to do the additional developmental work.
- Finding: The contract and change orders negotiated with ISSC
may not have provided the best value to the State.
- The State committed itself to IBM equipment early on.
As mentioned earlier, the State locked itself into buying IBM computer equipment before the
contract was signed by the parties and approved by the Comptroller. In March 1996, DSS began
buying IBM equipment through a centralized State contract. Then, between May and August 1996,
ISSC - an IBM subsidiary -- completed statewide rollout of equipment worth $60 million under
the CONNECTIONS contract, prior to Comptroller approval. By that time, using IBM equipment was
a fait accompli.
Furthermore, the contract signed with ISSC only allowed IBM machines to be certified on the
CONNECTIONS network. This has precluded the State from buying additional equipment from other
vendors, using a competitive bidding process. It was not until the fall of 1999, when the
federal Administration for Children and Families pressed the Office to use a competitive process
to procure additional equipment, that the Office required IBM to certify other vendors on the network.
- Has the State received the best price on IBM goods and services?
The original contract with ISSC was for $76 million. It involved computer hardware-- including
over 14,000 personal computers--as well as installation, support, maintenance, and some computer-based
training. The initial rollout of equipment, comprising $60 million of the $76 million, was completed
by August 1996. By any measure, a statewide rollout of such a magnitude within five months is
Since then, over 78 change orders worth $40 million have been made to the contract, bringing
the contract to $116 million. These change orders were for such things as additional equipment
and services, including the recent extension of IBM's help desk support through March 2001. One
change order, worth $12 million, made supplemental equipment available to local districts and contract
agencies. The equipment would be initially paid by the State and then charged back to the purchasing
agency. In total, the change orders represent an increase of 53% over the original contract.
While individually, each change order may have seemed necessary at the time, when considered in
full, did the State get the best value for its dollar? The Comptroller's audit expressed a similar
"Because change orders are not subject
to competitive bidding, there is a significant
risk that the price charged for the goods or
services will be higher than if the goods or
services had been competitively bid."146
The audit further found that inadequate controls at DSS over change orders issued through April
1998 may have caused the State to pay for unnecessary goods and services, and at higher prices.
Specifically, it found that due to federal time pressures, the agency did not document the need
for the contract change and did not make cost comparisons before change orders were issued:
"Because the change orders were not
thoroughly evaluated, there is less assurance
that only necessary equipment and services
were acquired, and the most efficient and
effective approach was used….We also found
that the prices charged by ISSC on the change
orders were not always thoroughly reviewed to
ensure products and services were acquired at
a fair price."147
In response to the audit, the Office indicated it would put additional control procedures in place
to ensure that prices paid are fair and that goods and services meet expectations. However, as noted
earlier, concerns remain over the effectiveness of these procedures.
Even the original prices paid to IBM under the CONNECTIONS contract may have been too high. To
get a sense of the reasonableness of these prices, Committee staff compared the contract price of
the basic deskstations (personal computers) to prevailing market prices at the time the contract was
negotiated. The contract price for the deskstations was $2,550.148
Comparable market prices for similar systems were found to be $2,298.149
The difference of $252 per unit, multiplied by the 12,600
units purchased, suggests the State paid over $3 million more than market price for this equipment.
Recent change orders-issued after the Comptroller's audit-continue to cast doubt on the
reasonableness of the price paid by the State. For example, in October 1999, the Office purchased
additional equipment to replace the Connections-in-a-Box computers used by local districts and
voluntary agencies. The unit price paid to IBM was $1,375.150
Again, Committee staff found the market price was lower: similar systems with enhanced features
cost on average $1,255.151 The
difference of $120 multiplied by the 1,000 units purchased reflects a potential overpayment of
At the May hearings, the Committees heard complaints from providers that the prices being charged
by the Office for supplemental equipment are higher than market prices. The higher prices have
discouraged agencies from purchasing the computers they need to meet State requirements, and to
expand their operations. Marjorie McLoughlin, Executive Director of Cardinal McCloskey Services
in New York City, testified:
"The contract bidding process is
supposed to guarantee that we receive the
lowest possible equipment prices. It would
seem that it has done the opposite and we
are now paying the highest possible prices."
"This is the Child Welfare equivalent
of the famous $600 that the Army pays for a
hammer or a toilet seat."
James F. Purcell, Executive Director of COFCCA, agreed:
"[I]f agencies are to be required
to purchase [equipment] themselves such
supplemental equipment should be available
at market rates, rather than from only one
- Finding: The large number and dollar amount of change orders involved
with this project runs contrary to the best value principle in State law.
As mentioned earlier, the State's Procurement Stewardship Act requires that service contracts
(including technology) shall be awarded on the basis of best value to the offerer which optimizes
quality, cost and efficiency, among responsive and responsible offerers.
155 Thus agencies are given discretion to consider proposals other than the lowest
price offer, to be able to select the best overall package for the State.
The Administration maintains that the original CONNECTIONS procurement resulted in a best value
award being made to ISSC for Component 1 (hardware) and Andersen Consulting for Component 2
(software). These vendors proposed the lowest price and second lowest price for their respective
However, when one considers the large increases to both contracts since the project's inception,
it appears we may have moved away from a best value award. Further, it supports the theory that
vendors may bid low to get an award, and then make money off the change orders. It is therefore
important to be able to justify and support any increases. NASPO has stressed the importance of
"On large contracts that are
negotiated without adequate price competition,…
and on contract modifications, the public
interest calls for the scrutiny of costs
and prices to avoid excessive charges."
It is not uncommon for information technology contracts to require modifications and increases.
This is due to a variety of factors, including the complex and subjective nature of such projects,
particularly those involving systems design and development. Committee staff's analysis of data
from the Comptroller's Office show that 30% of the information technology contracts entered into
in State fiscal years 1997 through 1999 had increases. Of these, the overall cost increase was 44%
over their original values.
While the time periods do not exactly coincide, it is interesting to note the increases over
time in the Andersen Consulting and ISSC contracts for CONNECTIONS. Since their inception, the
contracts increased by 167% and 53%, respectively - together representing an overall increase of 90%.
The following table shows the increases in these two contracts.157
||Initial Contract Amount
||Contract Amt. As of 1/31/01
||Change Order Increases
The Office has argued that some of the CONNECTIONS change orders were beyond its control, and it
should not be held accountable for the escalating cost of the project. For example, several change
orders were for locally requested equipment and services, and were to be paid for by the local
agencies, not the State. However, most of these expenses, requested pursuant to the Local Options
clause of the contract, should have been anticipated by the Office during project planning as part
of the overall cost of the system.
Further, because of a lack of agency controls over change orders for both contracts, we are
not assured that the State received the best value for these additional costs. In negotiating
these sometimes complex changes, the agency may have again been unwittingly led by the vendors
to authorize unnecessary and costly work.
- Finding: The Federal agency steered the Office to do what it
should have done on its own as part of overall contract management.
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS') Administration for Children and Families
(ACF) oversees the implementation of the SACWIS computer systems being developed by most states. As
part of its oversight function, ACF must approve Advance Planning Documents (APDs) submitted by the
states which describe how each state plans to develop and implement the system, and the related costs.
ACF also approves contracts and related increases over $100,000 before they are executed.
158 The purpose
of this prior approval process is to ensure that the projects being planned will conform to federal
requirements, and thus be eligible for federal reimbursement.
Committee staff examined APDs and correspondence between the Office and ACF. In several areas, it
was apparent that ACF suggested and sometimes directed the Office to perform functions that it clearly
should have already been doing. Some examples:
- ACF directed the Office to "diligently pursue its examination
of whether or not legal action may be justified to enforce the terms
and conditions of the original, firm fixed-price contract" with Andersen
- ACF expressed concern that the warranty provisions of the original
Andersen contract were not enforced, and that defective software delivered
under the contract was being fixed and paid for under amendment #1.
- ACF also required that the State submit a plan for transitioning
application support, new development and modifications, and system
operations from Andersen Consulting. It warned that sole-source contract
amendments would no longer be approved beyond fixing Releases 2 and 3.
- The federal agency required, as a condition for approving the purchase
of additional computer equipment in the fall of 1999, that any future
purchases be competitively bid.162
- To ensure that other vendors could be solicited for future
equipment purchases, ACF also required the Office to have IBM certify
other vendors' equipment on the CONNECTIONS network.
Federal audits examine inadequate controls over contracts and claims.
In the fall of 1999, the HHS Inspector General's Office began a series of audits of CONNECTIONS
claims. There were several issues of concern to HHS relating to contract costs and project management
First, HHS was investigating whether claims submitted by the Office as developmental expenses
should have been classified as either operational in nature or not SACWIS-related, and thus subject
to reimbursement at a lower rate, or not at all. Second, HHS was examining whether over $50 million
in claims had received prior federal approval before the work was authorized to be done. At issue
are contract amendments/change orders totaling approximately $28.5 million on the Andersen contract
and $23 million on the ISSC contract.164 And third, the federal government was examining whether
New York State should pay back funds already paid to the State, since the system is not functioning
as the Office had told the federal agency it was supposed to, despite significant cost increases.
The audits will also make recommendations as to the extent these expenses receive federal
In a September 2000 news article, Michael Kharfen, a spokesman for ACF said of the audit:
"We could not get a full grasp from the
state as to what they were spending the dollars
on….This is the only audit we have requested of
the 45 states that have SACWIS projects. It is
the most expensive project that's underway. It's
also the one that has seemingly had some of the
more significant problems."
In October 2000, HHS issued its first audit report. Although it was limited in scope, its findings
are indicative of the lack of controls that exist at the State agency. This audit involved $12 million
in early claims submitted by DSS to prepare the agency's existing computer systems for CONNECTIONS
(known as "Phase I" in the State's Advanced Planning Documents). HHS and OCFS have
agreed that these costs are not eligible for SACWIS reimbursement. The State hopes to re-submit
these claims under other child welfare programs, but at a lower reimbursement rate. The net impact
to the State would be a loss in federal funding of $3.2 million.
Further, the auditors found that the State's accounting records were not detailed enough to audit
the expenses in question, as they did not identify specific Phase I costs. The State was only able
to provide documentation on budgeted costs, not actual expenses incurred, for Phase I. Therefore,
the above adjustments to federal funding must be made on budgeted, not actual, numbers.
The other audits of the IBM and Andersen contracts and related costs are ongoing, and therefore,
the risk to the State is unknown. At a February 6, 2001 Legislative Budget Hearing, Commissioner
Johnson estimated the risk of lost federal funds could be $40 million.
It should be noted that since 1999, the Office has made efforts to keep ACF apprised of its plans
for CONNECTIONS, and has requested and received prior approval of more recent contract amendments and
change orders as well as the Project Integrator contract.
- The Administration must improve its ability to negotiate, enforce, and manage large computer
technology contracts. Greater training and support for agency management involved in this function
is needed. Statewide standards for technology contracts, including enforcement mechanisms, should
be established. Recent efforts by the State Office for Technology (OFT) to help negotiate complex
technology procurements, train project managers, and establish statewide technology contract clauses
are promising. However, because OFT cannot be involved in every technology procurement and
implementation, training should be available and required for agency personnel involved in contract
negotiations, enforcement and management.
- The State Comptroller should do a follow-up review of the Office's compliance with its audit
recommendations to improve agency controls over change orders. In October 1998, in response to a
Comptroller's audit, Commissioner Johnson had promised to take action in this regard.
- "CONNECTIONS" audit, op. cit.
- Written testimony of Zachary Zambri, p. 1.
- Andersen Consulting's CONNECTIONS Best and Final Offer, Notes to Financial
Proposal for Component 2.
- Contract C007546 between DSS and Andersen Consulting, Article XII.
- Letter from DSS to OSC, September 26, 1997.
- Of the total, $7.4 million was for work requested by New York City and
was to be charged back to the City.
- Andersen Consulting contract amendment #1, Memorandum of Agreement for
Scope Changes/Modification Requests, August 26, 1997.
- State & Local Government Purchasing Principles & Practices 1997, op.
- Andersen contract amendment #1, op. cit., Exhibit 1.
- "CONNECTIONS" audit, op. cit., p.4.
- Ibid, p. 12.
- Audit Report 99-F-44, issued October 28, 1999.
- Contract C007546 between DSS and Andersen Consulting, Article XXIX.
- "Downloading Disasters", op. cit.
- January 1999 Interim Advanced Planning Document, p.45.
- March 2, 1999 letter from the Director of State Systems, ACF, to the Deputy
Commissioner of Administration, OCFS, p.5.
- CONNECTIONS audit, op. cit., p.10.
- Ibid, p. 11
- Original deskstation configuration per CONNECTIONS contract: 100 Mhz
Pentium, 32 MB memory, 1.7 GB hard drive, PCI ethernet adapter, 15" monitor.
- Source: PC Computing, 3/96.
- Replacement Connections-in-a-Box configuration per Change Order #78: Intel
400 Mhz Pentium II, 64 MB memory, 6.4 GB hard drive, 56K modem, 17" monitor.
- Source: PC Computing, 10/99. Price reflects systems with 450-500
Mhz Pentium III, 128 MB memory, 8.4-13 GB hard drive, 56K modem, 17" monitor.
- Written testimony of Marjorie McLoughlin, p. 3.
- Ibid, p. 2.
- Written testimony of James F. Purcell, p.3.
- State Finance Law section 163 (1)(j).
- State & Local Government Purchasing Principles & Practices - 1997, op.
- Source: State Comptroller's Office.
- Federal regulations (45 CFR Part 95, Subpart F) require that contract
increases over $100,000 receive prior federal approval in order to be eligible
for SACWIS reimbursement.
- March 2, 1999 letter from ACF to OCFS, op. cit., p.6
- Ibid, p.4.
- Ibid, p.5.
- October 5, 1999 letter from the Director of the Office of State Systems,
ACF, to the Deputy Commissioner of Administration, OCFS, p. 2.
- Ibid, p.2.
- Source: July 1999 APDU.
- "State System to Trace Abuse Under Scrutiny", Daily News,
September 5, 2000, p.3.
- "Review of Costs Claimed Under Phase I of CONNECTIONS by the New York
State Department of Family Assistance Office of Children and Family Services",
Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, audit report
A-02-99-02008, issued October 2000.
V. FISCAL IMPACTS
It has proven difficult to determine both the total cost of CONNECTIONS so far, and the expected
cost to complete it. The Administration has not been able to provide a clear figure to the
Legislature. A number of factors remain unresolved. First, a significant portion of the system
(i.e., Release 4) may have to be extensively modified or scrapped altogether and replaced, at an
as yet undetermined cost. At the time this report went to print, Maximus' recommendation on how
to proceed with the system -- originally due in October 2000 -- had not been released. This
recommendation will impact the total cost of the system. The Committees estimate the total cost
of the system so far to be approximately $362 million, not including fixing
Release 4. However, the State's share is still not clear. The system will ultimately be paid
for by a combination of Federal, State and local funds; but the extent of Federal participation
is still being negotiated. It is fair to say the cost to the State will exceed the $151 million
appropriated and proposed by the Executive to date.
Other costs of CONNECTIONS are even more difficult to quantify. They include costs to users
such as lost productivity of caseworkers, and local agency efforts to develop and maintain additional
computer systems. Furthermore, as mentioned in Section II of this report, there are human impacts
that have resulted from problems with CONNECTIONS. The cost of such impacts cannot be measured in
With so much at stake, both fiscally and programmatically, the Legislature has a strong interest
in seeing this project to completion in the quickest and most cost-effective manner possible. It
stands to reason that the agency responsible for the project's planning and implementation should
be held accountable for its rising costs. But, the Office has complained that circumstances outside
of its control have contributed to these rising costs. Even considering the unknowns mentioned above,
the Committees have not been able to elicit direct answers about the current and expected costs of
- Finding: It is hard to pin down the total cost of the system
so far, and the Administration cannot tell us how much more it will cost.
- The Administration's estimates do not reflect all costs.
When asked about the cost of the system, the Administration frequently cites the annual
Advanced Planning Document Updates (APDU's) required by the federal Administration for
Children and Families. The latest APDU shows total developmental costs of the system to be
$185.8 million,167 not including the cost of fixing or replacing Release 4 which still
has to be competitively bid. However, this figure does not document all costs of the
system. In fact, it does not even come close to the cost of the contracts involved in
implementing the system. Contract amounts as of December 31, 2000 are summarized in the
|ISSC/IBM Global Services
|SUNY Research Foundation (Training)
The APDU is required to set forth funding requests only for developmental costs of the State's SACWIS.
It is not required to detail ongoing operational costs while the system is being developed, as is New
York's case. Therefore, the current APDU does not include any operational costs from 1996 through 2001.
These costs are significant, although the Committee has not been able to obtain a recent estimate from
The previous APDU dated July 1999 had estimated developmental costs to be $242.8 million.
170 Since then,
the Office has re-classified $57 million in expenditures from a developmental category to an operational
category as defined by the federal government, resulting in the reduced estimate of $185.8 million. The
bulk of the re-classified expenditures are for anticipated computer hardware replacements costing $40
million. It is important to note that the Office has not eliminated the $57 million in costs, they simply
omitted them from the federal report.
Also in the July 1999 APDU, the Office had estimated--for informational purposes--that its operational
costs from the project's inception through September 2001 would be $119.8 million.
171 A similar estimate was
not included in the October 2000 APDU. Committee staff requested such information from the Office but have
yet to receive it. However, costs could be expected to be at least $119.8 million plus the $57 million in
former developmental costs that were re-classified as operational, bringing total operational costs to
$176.8 million. To sum up, the Committees estimate the cost of the system to date to be around $362.6
million, not including the cost of fixing or replacing Release 4:
|Developmental costs per October 2000 APDU
|Operational costs through September 2001
(per July 1999 APDU)
|Costs re-characterized from Developmental to
Operational per October 2000 APDU
|Total cost estimate to date, not including Release 4
- The cost of fixing the system is still unknown.
The above estimates of developmental costs do not include fixing or replacing Release 4. This cost
won't be known until Maximus and the State complete their reassessment efforts, an RFP is released, bids
are received, and a contract is awarded. In the July 1999 APDU, the Office had projected that the cost
to complete Release 4 would be $14,381,218.
- Ongoing operational costs are an additional cost factor.
It should be noted that once the system is fully operational, the State will continue to incur
ongoing operational costs, separate from the developmental and interim operational costs discussed
above. Such expenses include State staff, network maintenance, equipment maintenance, ongoing computer
replacements, helpdesk services, user training and user support. The October 2000 APDU projects the
total annual operating cost to be $38.4 million.172 A portion of these costs will be eligible for federal
- Finding: Even if we know the total cost, the State versus Federal share remains unclear.
- State funding
The State has already appropriated $115.5 million from the General Fund for CONNECTIONS
through State fiscal year 2000-01. The Executive's 2001-02 budget proposes an additional
$35.6 million. The following chart summarizes the State appropriations since the project's
|State Fiscal Year
|2001-02 Executive proposal
Deciding what standard should be used in evaluating the 2001-02 estimate is difficult, since
the budget estimate precedes Maximus' reassessment proposal. However, at this late date, the
Office should be held accountable for such an estimate, as it should be for planning for the
overall project. The Legislature has the right to know at this stage in the process -- 5 years
after this project began - what the overall cost, and the State's exposure, is expected to be.
In addition to the General Fund appropriations, the 2000-01 State budget approved $22 million
in Certificates of Participation for equipment replacement. An additional $6 million in COPS is
in the Executive's proposed 2001-02 budget. Through this method of borrowing, the State pays
back the Certificates over several years, with interest.
- Federal funding
Federal funds are theoretically allocated annually to cover the federal share of CONNECTIONS.
However, it is difficult to determine total federal appropriations since the project's inception.
Until the 2000-01 budget, the federal share was not separately identified in the budget. Rather,
it was included in the larger Federal Title IV-E appropriation. In 2000-01, the budget provided
a separate federal appropriation of $25 million for CONNECTIONS. The Executive's 2001-02 budget
proposes an additional $25 million for the system.
A better way to look at federal funding is to consider federal approvals and reimbursements to
date, but even this is unclear. Through October 2000, the federal government had approved a total
of $96.7 million for CONNECTIONS developmental costs, and actually paid $83.6 million.
certain other operational expenses have also been claimed and paid. ACF has conditionally approved
the latest APDU from October 2000, which requested federal reimbursement on developmental expenses
totaling $185 million. The federal share of this amount had not been determined when this report
went to print.
In addition to the pending federal approvals, the State faces the loss of federal funds that have
already been claimed. As mentioned earlier, in late 1999 the HHS inspector general's office launched
an investigation of CONNECTIONS claims (see discussion in the Contract Management section of this report).
The first audit report was released in October 2000. It involves early claims totaling approximately
$12 million that HHS has determined are not eligible for SACWIS reimbursement. Because the State
plans to re-submit these costs under other federal programs, the net loss in federal funds for these
expenses is expected to be around $3.2 million. The other audits are still ongoing, but OCFS
Commissioner Johnson has estimated that an additional $40 million in federal funds could be at
- Federal AFCARS penalties
In addition to the possible denial of federal reimbursement for the system, the State also faces
separate penalties for not meeting federal AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting
System) reporting requirements (see discussion in the Contract Management Section of this report).
To date, the State has been assessed $3.3 million in AFCARS penalties, and faces an additional
$817,000 for the second half of federal fiscal year 1999-2000. Prospectively, the State faces annual
penalties of $1.6 million until CONNECTIONS is fully operational and can produce the required data.
The penalties assessed have been placed on hold by HHS pending an appeal by the State.
- Finding: Local districts and contract providers are
also experiencing added costs due to CONNECTIONS.
There is clearly a concern among users of the system that money spent on CONNECTIONS is competing
with money for direct services. Some of the costs local districts and agencies have had to absorb
have been discussed throughout this report. These local costs include:
- Additional time spent in the office on administrative recordkeeping in CONNECTIONS.
- Resulting overtime needed to complete field work.
- Cost of developing additional in-house systems to track information CONNECTIONS was
supposed to handle (e.g., databases to search for prior reports of child abuse or neglect,
separate systems to track ASFA requirements, etc.).
- In New York City alone, $11 million was spent to: customize CONNECTIONS to meet
NYC's needs; make Y2K enhancements for the old systems the City must use until CONNECTIONS
is fully operational; and cover the cost of City computer staff time to run CONNECTIONS.
- Cost of training new workers on the system, and training existing workers on the new
- Salaries of in-house computer staff at local sites that maintain the local area networks.
Commissioner Edwin Miner of Chautauqua County discussed the fiscal impact CONNECTIONS has had on his
county, especially under the Child Welfare Block Grant:
"If CONNECTIONS had been an unsuccessful implementation
ten years ago--when the State of New York was still a proportional
partner in funding Child Welfare services--we would have borne the
administrative costs of failure proportionally. Unfortunately the
Child Welfare Block Grant severed the partnership and has made the
Counties disproportionally responsible for administrative costs.
Not only does this system compete with children for the attention
of our caseworkers but it also drives the cost of implementation--
an unfunded mandate--onto Counties…Local Districts wonder when the
State will take seriously the financial and human impact of
CONNECTIONS and its effect on Child Welfare Services."
- The Governor's proposed 2001-02 budget includes $60.6 million in State and federal funding for
CONNECTIONS. According to budget officials, this figure does not include any of the costs to deal
with fixing or replacing "Release 4". In 2000, the Executive requested and the Legislature
approved funding for a project integrator (Maximus), whose chief responsibility was to recommend
how to proceed with the system's development. The Maximus report is now four months late. At
the Fiscal Committees' budget hearing on February 6, 2001, Commissioner Johnson indicated that
Maximus had completed its report, and it was under review by OCFS.
However, when this report went to print, the Legislature still had no indication from OCFS
what any additional costs for completing the project would be. The Legislature must be provided
as soon as possible with both the Maximus report and with the Executive's recommendations on how
it plans to proceed. Only then is it reasonable to expect the Legislature to act on the
Governor's proposed 2001-02 budget as it relates to CONNECTIONS.
- October 2000 APDU, Budget
Summary, p.2 of 24.
- Source: State Comptroller's Office
- Estimate based on budgeted information provided by OCFS.
- July 1999 APDU, p.I.15.
- Ibid, p.I.18.
- October 2000 APDU, Budget Summary, p.16 of 24.
- October 2000 APDU, section 2.2.
- Written testimony of Edwin Miner, p.3.
ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THIS REPORT
ACF - federal Administration for Children and Families
ACS - New York City's Administration for Children's Services
AFCARS - federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System
ASFA - federal Adoption and Safe Families Act
BAFO - Best and Final Offers
BAFO RFP - a Request for Proposals requesting Best and Final Offers
CCRS - State Child Care Review Service
COFCCA - Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies
CSEA - Civil Service Employees Association
DSS - New York State Department of Social Services
FEC - Financial Evaluation Committee
HHS - federal Department of Health and Human Services
NASPO - National Association of State Purchasing Officials
OCFS - New York State Office of Children and Family Services
Office - Throughout this report, the Office refers to OCFS and its predecessor, DSS
OSC - New York State Office of the State Comptroller
OTDA - New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
PEF - Public Employees Federation
RFP - Request for Proposals
SACWIS - federal Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System
TEC - Technical Evaluation Committee