Don't let good work get lost in the headlines

Photo by Todd Wiseman

As a Texas-based small business that operates at the mercy of the state’s procurement process, 21CT applauds Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a full review of management, contracting and operations inside the state’s Health and Human Services Commission. We also welcome the Legislature’s consideration of procurement reforms to ensure integrity, accountability and fairness to the public, businesses, and state agencies that rely on these processes.

Further, as a company that over the last two years provided oversight of Texas’ Medicaid program and the safety of at-risk children, we urge Texans to keep these improvements in mind and not let the important work of good Texas companies and state workers get lost in the headlines.

At the center of the recent debate is the contracting process run through Texas’ Department of Information Resources’ Cooperative Contracts system. Thanks to a Houston Chronicle investigation, we now know that multiple state agencies have used this cooperative system for multimillion-dollar contracts dating as far back as 2006, indicating a well-established pattern that preceded 21CT’s contract by six years. HHSC used it the most, for $260 million in contracts with some of the world’s largest, most recognizable companies.

The Department of Information Resources (DIR) has gone on record supporting its process and has specifically validated the integrity of the 21CT selection, stating: “21CT was evaluated just like every other Cooperative Contracts program vendor based on their response to a competitive [Request for Offer]. The evaluation included price, experience, and history selling the products or performing the services, ability to support the contract, client references, etc.”

Among our qualifications the state evaluated is that 21CT is a Top Secret Cleared contractor to the federal government. For more than a decade, we have used our patented technology to identify terrorist and cyber-security threats for more than 50 agencies and private businesses. We were and are still imminently qualified to bring our experience in innovative data analytics to a challenge like Medicaid fraud. We were simply one of many qualified companies HHSC selected through the state-approved Cooperative Contracts system — a process that was created precisely for the reason it has gained popularity: It prioritizes contract oversight and efficiency over bureaucracy.

Yet the debate continues, costing private-sector jobs, leading to inaccurate claims and conclusions, and potentially calling into question the qualifications and work of other vendors that have used the DIR and other state master-contract processes. 

But the most important consequence of the debate is getting lost in the headlines — the fact that good work that was benefiting taxpayers has been disrupted.

Working with HHSC, 21CT helped bring efficient oversight to the Medicaid program by identifying millions in potential overpayments, identifying schemes and techniques used by fraudsters, and making it possible for the state to recover fraudulent payments. We have helped HHSC improve the quality of care for Medicaid patients by identifying many policy improvements and providing information that could clear thousands of good health care providers who had made only minor clerical errors or single billing violations.

This same solution was just starting to be used in late 2014 to help the Department of Family and Protective Services spot patterns of abuse and neglect of children by analyzing data within the agency’s own disparate databases. Without this information, well-intended investigators too often walk into a home with only a small fraction of the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about the welfare of a child.

Our team is proud of our work, and I am proud to have spent the last decade leading what should be hailed as a Texas success story based on our intellect, trust, integrity and continued ability to innovate where our competitors have not. 

In spite of the headlines, I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunity to have served our great state, and I hope to continue to serve Texans by helping to improve procurement procedures and ensuring efficiency in the Medicaid program. We pledge to cooperate with all investigations and reviews of HHSC if called upon, and I have every confidence that audits of our practices and our interaction with the state will validate our company’s good work and lead to changes that taxpayers, and those who do business with the state, deserve.

Irene Williams

CEO of 21CT