Texas governor intercedes in IBM contract

Texas Gov. Rick Perry suspended the transfer of state records to IBM Corp.'s data management program on Tuesday, saying serious glitches in Texas' privatized computer system had put state agencies in danger, reports the Dallas Morning News.

Perry said no more state data should fall under IBM's control until his office can complete an assessment of the system.

IBM has failed to perform "the crucial backup of data for more than 20 state agencies," Perry wrote in a letter to Brian Rawson, who oversees the IBM contract for the state's Department of Information Resources. "The agency has failed to implement a system of checks and balances that ensures data security, jeopardizing the ability of state agencies to deliver services to their constituencies."

The governor's decision follows a Dallas Morning News investigation into a record-destroying computer crash in the Texas attorney general's office, and concerns that state vendor IBM isn't backing up critical computer data in more than a dozen state agencies. Major data backup problems have been reported in the Texas Department of Transportation, Department of State Health Services and the Texas Workforce Commission.

In a letter on Monday, Mr. Rawson wrote that IBM is "not meeting expectations," and has been fined $900,000 for a failure to complete timely backups, as required by its $863 million, seven-year contract.

Fines of this sort are not unusual on large state information technology outsourcing contracts. For example, Computer Sciences Corp. was fined $2 million for failing to meet service goals on an outsourcing contract with San Diego County earlier in the decade.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, IBM spokesman Jeff Tieszen said the company is working closely with Mr. Rawson and his department to resolve the problems.
"IBM takes very seriously the issues that have been reported," he said. "We are committed to helping the state to better serve its citizens through the innovative use of information technology."

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Tieszen acknowledged there have been problems with backups and customer satisfaction, but said the contract has improved several other aspects of state government technology.

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