With tens of thousands of Kansans out of work and waiting for unemployment pay, a Sentinel Open Records investigation shows Governor Laura Kelly’s administration is paying Accenture $48 per hour to provide call center staff between early July and the end of November. Accenture was also paid about $3.9 million for operational management fees, training fees, and the virtual assistant chat on top of $7.4 million for the call center staff.
But that’s not all. The Kelly administration also paid Accenture about $10 million in consulting fees for more than a dozen projects, including pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) system and technology upgrades, fraud support, outbound correspondence, IT documentation, and IT skills and resource assessment.
All together, Accenture was paid almost $22 million over those five months.
The call center and consulting arrangement were included in several amendments to a $6.9 million no-bid contract to do contact tracing that was signed in June.
The $48 per hour paid for call center employees is three times what the average call center employee in the state of Kansas makes, which is approximately $15.75 an hour. It’s standard practice to charge more than employees are paid to cover vendors cost of training and other overhead but in this case, the state paid Accenture millions more in addition to the $48 per hour fee.
As of Jan. 14, 2021, Kansas has the highest growth in weekly unemployment claims in the nation, jumping nearly three thousand percent over this same week in 2019, with more than 80,000 Kansans applying for benefits each week.
It’s also unclear how much assistance the Accenture contract has been as Kansans have so struggled to get the unemployment benefits they are entitled to by law, that a class-action lawsuit has now been filed after many have gone months without being paid.
Another no-bid contract by the Kelly administration
No other companies were apparently given a chance to bid on the project.
On June 3, Kelly’s administration let an almost $6.9 million, one-year, sole-source contract with Accenture to do contact tracing.
The document establishing the administration’s justification for avoiding the bidding procedure states: “It is critical to the success of this effort that contact tracing being (sic) immediately giving Kansas little lead time to seek or develop alternate solutions.”
Both documents were obtained in an Open Records request by Kansas Policy Institute, which owns the Sentinel.
Given that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, and Kelly issued her stay-at-home order on March 28, 2020, it is unclear — and the Sentinel asked — why this contract couldn’t have been put out for bid. Our questions were ignored.
The Sole Source justification document notes that Accenture and the State of Kansas have done business before.
“Accenture has an established and proven track record within Kansas,” the document reads. “The State has a long-standing relationship with Accenture which ensure (sic) rapid issue resolution and remediation. In addition, the existing technology components that Accenture already support will provide the backbone for the KDHE COVID-19 Track and Trace solution. These include integration middleware, dynamic document generation capabilities, and integration to the State of Kansas State Printer.”
The document also notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Accenture, based on work in Massachusetts.