Are the Tories to blame for Ontario’s social services system inadequacies?

It’s fun to pick on Accenture. The firm is frequently in the news for contracts that end up costing taxpayers way more than originally planned. Ontario Auditor Erik Peters lambasted its 1997 deal with Ontario’s social services department for skyrocketing to an estimated $500 million from the $180

million it was supposed to cost, for example. And most recently, the consultancy is being blamed for building a system that is unable to process the three per cent increase in welfare payments Ontario recently announced.

But what if Accenture’s system is in fact doing exactly what it was supposed to do? What if it can’t process increases because it’s not supposed to, as a means for the former ruling party to ensure a lasting legacy for its political goals of making life difficult for welfare recipients? The Tories knew they wouldn’t be raising the rates and they also knew if they were voted out of power, it would be the perfect way to drop a million-dollar problem on the Liberals’ lap.

It just seems odd that Accenture is the same company that built a successful system for New Brunswick’s Department of Family and Community Services in 1996 (please see Ontario IT system problems resurface with welfare glitch at www.itbusiness.ca/tig). Granted, Ontario’s system has been problematic since its implementation, but obviously, Accenture is capable of building systems that do in fact work.

A conspiracy theory, perhaps, but I’m not the first to raise the question. Here’s what one person suggested on the rabble.ca Web site (note: get your big grain of salt ready if you don’t lean so far to the left you almost fall over): “”Just to be clear, the computer system problem is a real issue. I have a contact who was a former policy analyst in the ministry who told me a year ago he didn’t think the computer system could process a rate increase, nor did they have anyone on staff who could do it. This was something of the Conservatives’ making — the fact that it cannot process rate increases but can process item by item deductions speaks volumes of that government’s policies toward low-income Ontarians.””

If this is true, public sector IT needs a procurement process so transparent it’s obvious to the public what its political masters are asking of it.

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