Connecticut's Eligibility System: Improving System Availability

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-05-11.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)


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                               ELIGIBILITY SYSTEM
                               Improving System

 (;AO/‘IM’1’~(:-!1O-r,r,   -
                   United States
                   General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20648

                   Information    Management   and
                   Technology    Division


                   May 11,199O

                   The Honorable Bruce A. Morrison
                   House of Representatives

                   Dear Mr. Morrison:

                   In response to your January 16, 1990, request, we reviewed the State of
                   Connecticut’s progress in installing a new $27-million Eligibility Manage-
                   ment System. This system enables state employees, using computer ter-
                   minals, to access Connecticut’s mainframe computer to process welfare
                   applications and maintain welfare client information. You were con-
                   cerned that federal tax dollars may have been wasted on this system,
                   and asked us to determine why the system was nonfunctional for about
                   70 hours in December 1989. Detailed information on our scope and
                   methodology is included in appendix 1.

                   In May 1989, as part of a phased deployment, Connecticut began to
Results in Brief   install its Eligibility Management System. After successfully completing
                   initial tests, the system was installed in 8 of the state’s 14 district
                   offices. After the system operated successfully in these district offices,
                   Connecticut officials decided to deploy the system statewide. In Decem-
                   ber 1989, when the system was installed in all district offices, it exper-
                   ienced software problems resulting in 71 hours of time when the system
                   was scheduled to support on-line users but was not available for their
                   use. Connecticut is correcting the software problems and system on-line
                   availability is improving- hours of on-line unavailability were reduced
                   to 26 in March 1990. However, Connecticut is withholding $2.8 million
                   in payments to the contractor until all software problems are solved.
                   Connecticut expects to accept the system from the contractor in May
                    1990. Since the federal government will pay 70 percent of the system’s
                   cost, it will make a final review of the system in the summer of 1990 to
                   determine compliance with federal program and technical requirements
                   for federal certification.

Background         gibility management system to support federally funded programs oper-
                   ated by its Department of Income Maintenance. The reason for acquiring
            Y      the system was to improve program management, and help the Depart-
                   ment of Income Maintenance serve welfare clients more efficiently and
                   effectively. The system is used to help determine welfare eligibility and

                   Page 1                             GAO/IMTEGBO-66 Connecticut’s Eligibility   System

                         disburse over $1.6 billion annually in benefits including Medicaid bene-
                         fits, food stamps, and cash assistance to about 210,000 people. The sys-
                         tem is expected to cost $27 million for development and implementation,
                         with 70 percent paid by the federal government. The $27 million
                         includes software being developed under a $10.4 million contract.

                         The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture
                         have participated in funding of the system. The Social Security Disabil-
                         ity Amendments of 1980 (P.L. 96-266) provide funding for up to 90 per-
                         cent of the planning, design, development, and installation of statewide
                         automated claims processing and information retrieval systems to pro-
                         vide more efficient, economical, and effective administration of feder-
                         ally supported medical assistance and social services programs. Also,
                         the Food Stamp Act Amendments of 1980 (P.L. 96-249) provide for up
                         to 76 percent funding for automated systems. To receive federal funds,
                         the system is required to meet federal program requirements for the
                         specific federal programs that the system serves, and the system must
                         meet specific data processing technical requirements. Both the Depart-
                         ments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are responsible for
                         reviewing and approving the system when installation and testing are

                         Development work on the new system began in August 1986 and was
Connecticut’s Progress   completed in March 1989. Implementation of the system began on May
in Installing the New    1, 1989, one year later than expected, because of contractor problems
System                   with developing and testing software.

                         A phased deployment began with a test of a select number of welfare
                         client cases. After successful completion of this test, Connecticut
                         installed the system at one of its district offices. According to Connecti-
                         cut officials, installing the system in a production environment at one
                         district office allowed it to identify and correct any deficiencies before
                         installing the system at other district offices. By October 1,1989, the
                         system was installed in 8 of the 14 district offices, which represent
                         about 60 percent of Connecticut’s welfare client caseload. During this
                         time, Connecticut conducted acceptance tests to assess the software’s
                         conformance with specifications, the system’s reliability, and the sys-
                         tem’s performance (ability to process a certain work load in a given
                         period of time). Since these tests were successful, Connecticut officials
                         decided to deploy the system statewide in December 1989.

                         Page 2                             GAO/lMTEG99-65   Connecticut’s Eligibility   System
                    In December 1989, when all of Connecticut’s district offices and welfare
Software Problems   client caseswere added to the system, the availability problem
Reduced System      appeared. During the day, the system is used to process welfare applica-
Availability        tions. At night, it is used to process welfare payments and produce man-
                    agement reports. Connecticut officials expected the system to be
                    available about 10 hours each work day. Becauseof inefficiently written
                    software, increased time is needed to process the evening work load,
                    which makes the system unavailable for use during various periods of
                    time each day. When this happens, activities such as processing new
                    benefits or accessingand updating information in client files cannot be
                    During a total of 71 hours in Decemberthe system was not available to
                    process new benefits or accessand update information in client files.
                    Data compiled by the Department of Income Maintenance show that
                    poorly written software accounted for 62 of the hours. These hours had
                    been intended for processing welfare applications but were used to com-
                    plete the processing of the evening work load. Connecticut did not
                    become aware of the problem until all welfare client information was
                    loaded on to the system. When departmental computer programmers
                    reviewed the contractor-supplied software they found that it contained
                    too many processing steps and required several unnecessary calcula-
                    tions, which increased the time needed to process the evening work load.
                    In addition, Connecticut officials did not expect to have to take the sys-
                    tem off-line to install, test, and service new software programs. The
                    remaining 19 hours of on-line unavailability are attributable to this
                    Our review of system availability reports for March 1990 showed
                    improvement in the hours of on-line availability. In March, the system
                    was not available for a total of 26 hours, 19 of which were attributed to
                    inefficient software and 6 to new software programs being installed and
                    tested. These figures mean that availability of the system increased
                    from 63 percent to 88 percent during this period.
                    The improvement in system availability came about becausesome of the
                    inefficient software programs were redesigned. Connecticut expects fur-
                    ther improvement in on-line system availability when more of the ineffi-
                    cient software programs are redesigned, and it no longer has to take the
                    system off-line to install and test programs.

                    Page 8                            GAO-           Conuecticut’s   Eligibilitq   System

                    Connecticut’s Commissioner for Income Maintenance has stated that
State and Federal   Connecticut plans not to accept the system until the contractor resolves
Actions             outstanding software problems. As of February 28,1990, Connecticut
                    was withholding about $2.8 million of the $10.4 million in payments to
                    the contractor pending correction of these problems. The Commissioner
                    said that Connecticut expects the problems to be solved and the system
                    fully accepted in May 1990.

                    Both the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture
                    are monitoring the installation of the system in Connecticut. These
                    departments are responsible for reviewing and approving the system
                    when installation and testing are complete. Their final review begins
                    when the state accepts the system from the contractor and requests a
                    certification review. This review will determine if the system can be cer-
                    tified as meeting specific federal system criteria for the uniform admin-
                    istration and operation of welfare programs, and is qualified for federal
                    funds. Connecticut expects to request a federal certification review for
                    the system during the summer of 1990.

                    While Connecticut did encounter some unexpected software problems
Conclusions         during the installation of this system, state officials have identified the
                    problems and have taken prompt action to ensure that funds are not
                    fully spent until the system is working. Also, upon acceptance of the
                    system from the contractor, Connecticut will request a federal certifica-
                    tion review.

                    We discussed the facts presented in this report with officials from the
                    Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agricul-
                    ture, and Connecticut’s Department of Income Maintenance during the
                    course of our work, and have incorporated their views where appropri-
                    ate. We did not obtain official agency comments on a draft of this report.
                    Detailed information on our objectives, scope, and methodology is
                    presented in appendix I.

                    As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents
                    of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days after
                    its issue date, At that time we will send copies to the Secretary of Health
                    and Human Services; the Commissioner of Social Security; the Secretary
                    of Agriculture; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Com-
                    missioner of Income Maintenance; and other interested parties. This
                    report was prepared under the direction of Daniel C. White, Special

                    Page 4                             GAO/tMTEGSO-SS Connecticut’s Eligibility   System

           Assistant to the Assistant Comptroller General, who can be reached at
           (202) 275-4659. Other major contributors are listed in appendix II.

           Sincerely yours,

           Ralph V. Carlone    u
           Assistant Comptroller General

            Page 6                           GAO/IMTEG9@66 C!mmecticut’s EUibility   % ‘s@m
Our objectives were to determine the reasons why Connecticut’s new
Eligibility .ManagementSystem was experiencing problems in December
1989, and to determine the actions being taken to solve these problems.
Our review was conducted from January 1990 to April 1990, at the
Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture in Washing-
ton, D.C., and the State of Connecticut’s Department of Income Mainte-
nance headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut, in accordancewith
generally acceptedgovernment auditing standards.
We reviewed the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human
Services regulations and guidelines on how states may plan, design, and
operate an automated statewide managementinformation system that
qualifies for federal funds. To determine the extent to which Connecti-
cut’s Eligibility ManagementSystem is operational, we obtained the
Health and Human Services’evaluation methodology, which is used to
review state-developedautomated systems that request federal funding.
This methodology is designedto help assure that all functional require-
ments are examined, are determined to be operational, and are per-
formed efficiently and effectively.
To find out how well the new system met its availability goal since
December1989 when it becameoperational statewide, we analyzed
issuesof the Dally Eligibility, ManagementSystem ProcessingReport,
prepared monthly by the Department of Income Maintenance,that show
the average daily hours scheduled,the average daily on-line unavailabil-
ity, and the system’s availability calculated as a percentageof scheduled
hours. Using data compiled by the Department of Income Maintenance,
we calculated the number of hours the new system was available. We
then computed system availability by dividing the number of hours the
system was operational by the number of hours it was scheduledto be
operational, To determine why the system did not meet its availability
goal on a given day, we reviewed functional problem reports prepared
daily by the Department of Income Maintenance,which show the rea-
sons why the system is not available.
To determine the extent to which problems affecting system availability
have been corrected, we analyzed state-compiled data to identify the
number and types of problems that have affected the new system’s
availability. We also obtained supporting documentation and inter-
viewed state personnel responsible for implementing the system. We
examined the approach the state is using to correct problems with the
system. We also conducted on-site visits during February and March to

Page 6                           GA0/IMTEC90-55   Connecticut’s JUigibility System
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

observe the system in operation. We evaluated the effectiveness of con-
trols that the state uses to ensure that the problems affecting system
availability are corrected.

 Page 7                              GAO/EVTECOO-55 Connecticut’s Eligibility   System
Appendix II

Major Contributms to This Report

                       Thomas J. Jurkiewicz, Assistant Director
Information            Robert F. Gerkin, Senior Evaluator
Management and         K. Alan Merrill, Senior Technical Adviser
Technology Division,
Washington, D.C.

(6lOMl7)               Page 8                            GAO/IMTlWSO55   Connecticut’s Eligibility   System
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