Governor tries to ‘hurry’ solons into new deal
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.