Gover­nor tries to ‘hurry’ solons into new deal

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - OPINION - May­lon Rice

Things sim­ply are not mov­ing fast enough for our gover­nor down in Lit­tle Rock these days.

Sev­eral times this Hutchin­son ad­min­is­tra­tion, with its shift­ing per­son­nel is­sues of its own to con­tend with, seems to be prod­ding the leg­is­la­ture into swifter de­ci­sions these days.

And the mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture are fi­nally find­ing some po­lit­i­cal mus­cle – to push back against the gover­nor.

Now let us all wait and see how this shakes out.

The de­ci­sion to re­vamp these much needed and very, very ex­pen­sive tech­nol­ogy con­tracts are not to be taken lightly.

But what, in all re­al­ity, do we know about a tech­nol­ogy con­tract.

Doesn’t ev­ery com­pany (tele­phones, cell phones, lap­tops, com­put­ers, even the old vac­uum sweeper) prom­ise a bet­ter re­sult, a faster, swifter, more com­plete sys­tem than the one you have in place to­day?

Only, after driv­ing off the lot in the new car, do you re­ally miss the old beater you left at the deal­er­ship?

The same can be said for tech­nol­ogy sys­tems.

Just give a con­sumer a new phone, a new com­puter or a new sys­tem and the learn­ing curve to gain mas­tery of the new de­vices, like the old one — traded in and gone for­ever — is daunt­ing.

So can it be with these new tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances at the state level.

Then why, oh why, is Gov. Hutchin­son push­ing for these new pro­posed con­tracts when the state se­na­tors on Leg­isla­tive Council have not once but twice voted against?

The vote was 9-6 at first and then 10-6 in a later vote to not re­view the con­tract.

So what com­pany is be­hind this con­tro­ver­sial con­tract? Deloitte Con­sult­ing of Her­mitage, Tenn. The cur­rent pact is with Northrop Grum­man, which has held the con­tract for about two decades, leg­isla­tive sources say.

On the up­side, it ap­pears that the Deloitte Con­sult­ing pro­gram is less ex­pen­sive get­ting into the deal, but more costly over the life of the con­tract.

The Northrop Grum­man pro­posal is less ex­pen­sive over the time of the pro­posed new con­tract.

So, at log­ger­heads, it ap­pears does the gover­nor want to move on with Deloitte while the Leg­isla­tive Council clings to Northrop Grum­man’s pro­posal.

There has al­ways been talk about the mind-numb­ing and slow process for any con­tract for state work — es­pe­cially tech­nol­ogy up­grades.

Af­fected agen­cies, in the past, have pleaded with both the gover­nor and the leg­is­la­ture to “hurry along” these types of con­tracts. The agency em­ploy­ees, who will use this soft­ware and up­grades, want these con­tracts ap­proved so the tech­no­log­i­cal up­grades can be in­stalled, the bugs worked out and the old soft­ware talk­ing to new soft­ware, so the com­puter sys­tems can work for the peo­ple of Arkansas.

There are al­ways hor­ror sto­ries that well-run­ning, fully func­tional com­puter sys­tems just lock up, can­not be un­locked, data is frozen, or lost, or both. Up­grad­ing one’s iPhone in these tech­no­log­i­cal times is not as smooth as the ad­ver­tise­ments we see prom­ise.

So why should the state leg­is­la­tors, who have heard these sto­ries first­hand, be so quick to make these changes if they were not ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary? Well that may ex­plain some of the foot-drag­ging by the solons in mak­ing the move.

But why, oh why, is our gover­nor about to make such a power move — one never seen be­fore on a pro­cure­ment is­sue — to shove this new con­tract past the leg­isla­tive re­view process? Even loyal mem­bers of the gover­nor’s own party won­der what is go­ing on.

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-

Texarkana, said the move by Hutchin­son “… is his right, I’m not go­ing to be in­volved in vot­ing for some­thing like that.”

On the other side of the po­lit­i­cal aisle, state Sen. Joyce El­liot, D-Lit­tle Rock, warned the new con­trac­tor of the con­se­quences. “No ven­dor should op­er­ate un­der the no­tion that this body is ob­li­gated to say yes.”

The best state­ment may be that once a con­tract is be­fore the Leg­isla­tive Council that is the done deal.

This con­tract looks like a bad deal — all around. Even if it is has the gover­nor’s bless­ing.

— May­lon Rice is a for­mer jour­nal­ist who worked for sev­eral north­west Arkansas pub­li­ca­tions. He can be reached via email at may­lon­trice@ya­ The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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