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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bureaucracy, technology, catastrophe

We've been reading with interest about the computer snafus in the Oregon state child welfare system. We had a brush with those computers just the other day. We got a letter asking us if we were related to a child who is currently in foster care. The child and her parents were named in the letter, and we had never heard of any of them before. We Googled the parents, and quickly discovered that they're in big trouble with the law. The poor kid, we thought.

But getting back to us: How in the heck did child welfare come up with our name as a possible relative?

Fearing that we may be a victim, or soon-to-be victim, of some sort of identity theft, we called the social worker on the case. He couldn't tell us how he got our name -- he sounded as if he honestly didn't know for sure -- but he said he gets a call like ours every other day from a person who receives a similar letter out of the blue. Apparently the state has some sort of computer software that names possible relatives, and it errs on the side of inclusion.

But wow, none of the names rang a bell, and they weren't similar to ours or those of any of our relatives. It sounds like "err" is the key word when it comes to those state computers.

Comments (12)

none of the names rang a bell, and they weren't similar to ours or those of any of our relatives.

So Googling "Bogdanski Oregon foster child parents big trouble with law" will not turn up anything good?

Maybe you were the victim of identity theft a while ago and got connected to one of these people in a credit header.

Is Canada crawling with Bogdanski's?

Sounds like the child welfare workers are too busy with the "paper work" to be effective in protecting the welfare of kids in person!

My wife's maiden name is Bodgan (shortened from Bogdanaski). Is Bodgdanski Romanian? In the private sector, a $40 million IT snafu gets you fired. In Oregon state government, it get you PERS!

Brian -

Nobody at the State wrote the program or designed the hardware network that the State is using. Both program and hardware were recommended, furnished, installed and turned on by a private sector supplier.

Who do you wanna'fire?

Wanna' sue the private sector supplier for breach of contract and fraud?

Get real, start looking at the real world and stop viewing everything through your ideological lenses.

It's not reassuring to think that the state of Oregon IT purchasing agents have no obligation whatsoever to do due diligence on the contracts they let.

From PWB systems to Oregon DMV systems to this issue to I-can't-remember-them-all, it would appear that vendors see public agencies in Oregon as a bunch cash-rich rubes.

Are you related to John Edwards?

Nonny Mouse,
you do what private businesses do when a vendor fails to perform per the contract, YOU DON'T PAY THEM.
You also monitor performance prior to final delivery and if it looks like they are not going to make it on time or on budget you FIRE THEM.

"From PWB systems to Oregon DMV systems".

My conscience is clear on the DMV systems. My company won that ill fated DMV contract to provide all the millions of computer hardware to network all the DMV offices. It was a cost plus bid and there was no spec given at time of the bid. When I was given a view of the consultant's plan, I immediately told the contracting person that it would not work and that the contract should be modified. But I was told that after years of planning by the consultants they had hired, there was no turning back or changes allowed and that my company was bound by the contract to provide what the consultants spec'ed out. Almost everything they ordered were obsolete to begin with. I and the State frequently had to negotiate with the manufacturers to provide products that were discontinued. One of the many problems caused by blindly believing in consultants that I ran into in my previous life.

I understand Nonny's point, but my guess is that the full truth is closer to what TomC relates.

The gov moves so slowly on these projects that by the time the contract is signed, it is often obsolete. So saying that the private sector contractor is at fault is a bit of a sidestep. The real responsibility is usually due to the fact that the gov employees move so slowly that anything they produce is bound to fail. Why they work at such a slow pace is ripe for many discussions.

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