Glitchy state software system leads to botched payments for foster care providers

The Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System replaced a dozen legacy applications

By , IDG News Service |  Software

A Tennessee official is blaming inadequate training, ignored warnings and unwise technology choices for ongoing problems with an installed software system used by the state Department of Children's Services.

The Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System (TFACTS), which was installed in late 2010, replaced some 12 legacy systems at the DCS, according to an audit report released last week by State Comptroller Justin Wilson.

Dynamics Research Corp. was the project's primary systems integrator, with DRC using Compuware's OptimalJ toolkit for J2DEE development on the project. Wilson's office began investigating the "troubled implementation" last June, "after complaints surfaced of foster care providers not receiving timely payments," Wilson wrote in a letter to Mark Emkes, state commissioner of finance and administration.

The investigation followed a number of reports on the problems published last year in the Tennessean newspaper, which first took note of Wilson's audit report.

Wilson's report found that many payments were in fact late,"and there were also duplicate payments and problems with reporting."

A review of payments made through TFACTS during a pilot implementation period "noted that there were no payments to residential providers made during the month of June 2010, and that of the US$6.9 million in services provided in June 2010, less than $1 million had been paid by the end of the pilot period, August 31, 2010," according to the report.

A report released by DCS' internal auditor in March 2011 found that 182 duplicate payments, constituting $558,000, were made between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010, according to the audit. "'The report stated, "It appeared that the majority of payments were the result of manual payments to Private (residential) providers when TFACTS went live statewide."

After TFACTS was installed, contracts didn't always carry over correctly from the previous system, leaving some providers unpaid. "To avoid creating a hardship on the providers, the department made manual payments based on account balances submitted from the providers," the report states. "After making the payments, the department recognized that it had issued duplicate payments and began the process of recouping them."

Wilson's investigation also determined that DCS officials "disregarded obvious and known problems with the system, as well as the recommendation of an independent reviewer, when they made the decision to implement the system statewide" in late 2010, according to the audit.

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