The Assassination of Caesar, the Utter Ineptness of NCTracks, and Ignored Warnings

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“If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.”  George Santayana.

In William Shakespeare’s ”Julius Caesar,” Caesar is warned to “Beware the Ides of March.”  See Act 1, Scene 2.  The “ides” of March is the fifteenth.  Back when Caesar established the Julian calendar, he also instituted the “ides” of a month.  Months have different “ides.”  The ides of January, for example, is the thirteenth; the ides of March, May, July and October is the fifteenth.

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

Caesar:
What man is that?

Brutus:
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March

Not really sure what the point of the “ides” was, but, regardless, in 44 B.C., March 15th was the “ides” of March.

When Caesar was warned to “Beware the Ides of March,” Caesar would have known that the soothsayer was warning him about March 15th…a date certain.

Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was warned that NCTracks was not ready for its July 1, 2013, “go live”date.  Who was the soothsayer? The Office of State Auditor…Beth Wood.

In May 2013, prior to NCTracks going live, State Auditor Beth Wood published a Performance Audit that found hundreds of untested issues.  The audit warned DHHS that NCTracks was not ready to go live.  The May 2013 Performance Audit may as well have said, “DHHS, beware the first of July!”

Late in the day on March 15, 44 B.C., Caesar walked to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated by more than 60 conspirators led by Brutus, his close ally…”Et tu, Brutus?” (Meaning…how could you, my closest friend, conspire against me?)

On his way to the theatre, Caesar sees the same soothsayer who had warned him of the ides of March.  Caesar joked, “The ides of March have come,” meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”  See Plutarch’s “Parallel Lives.”

I can only imagine the chill that ran down Caesar’s back when the soothsayer warned that the day was not over yet.

Yet, Caesar still walked to the theatre…despite the warning….

Despite the warnings in the May 2013, Performance Audit, DHHS still went live  on July 1, 2013.

Since going live, NCTracks has run into a large number of system defects. Providers in NC have been in uproar.  From not getting paid, to getting paid the wrong amount, to Medicaid/Medicare crossover issues, to taxonomy issues…the failures and defects of NCTracks have been felt by all Medicaid providers, despite the speciality.

About a month ago, NC General Assembly began demanding answers of DHHS and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), the entity that created NCTracks based on a $484 million contract.  On October 8, 2013, DHHS and CSC appeared before the Joint Legislative Oversight Committees on Health and Human Services and Information Technology to answer questions about NCTracks issues.

Remember, Sec. Aldona Wos stated, during the committee meeting, that DHHS was not warned by an entity of the risk to go live with NCTracks.  To which, Auditor Wood stated, “For the secretary to say there was no independent or anybody else that had given them a look at their risk readiness for going live on July 1 was not a true statement to the committee, and we felt like that the committee needed to know that information.”

State Auditor Wood is the soothsayer.  ”Beware the first of July!”

Just as the soothsayer did for Caesar, prior to NCTracks going live, Wood warned DHHS that NCTracks was not ready.  Just like Caesar, DHHS did not stop NCTracks from going live (he went to the theatre anyway).  Just like Caesar’s death, the failure and ineptness of NCTracks was forewarned and could have been prevented.  Both DHHS and Caesar ignored the warnings.

So how bad is NCTracks?

According to the December 2013 Performance Audit, ”the NCTracks system has encountered more than 3,200 defects.”

Here are the Audit’s findings:

FINDING #1: THE DEPARTMENT HAS AN INADEQUATE FRAMEWORK FOR THE TIMELY RESOLUTION OF NCTRACKS DEFECTS

Since going live, the NCTracks system has encountered more than 3,200 defects. More than 600 defects remain unresolved at the time of the audit.

FINDING #2: THE DEPARTMENT LACKS A COMPREHENSIVE MASTER ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS NCTRACKS ISSUES

The Department does not have a comprehensive and cohesive master action plan to direct the remediation of technical and operational NCTracks issues.

FINDING #3: NCTRACKS GOVERNANCE CHANGES PRESENT BUDGETARY AND SYSTEM CAPABILITY RISKS TO THE STATE

Since July 1, 2013, there have been major updates to the approach the Department will take to implement required capabilities. These changes present budgetary and system functionality risks to the State.

FINDING #4: STATE GOVERNMENTS ‘REVOLVING DOOR’ CREATES A PERCEPTION OF BIAS OR CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A former DHHS employee who served for more than four years as the NCTracks Senior Program Manager and Associate Program Director now works for the NCTracks vendor, CSC, as the NCTracks Executive Account Director.

From Finding #4, it appears that CSC, like Brutus, is working hand in hand with DHHS.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.  ”Beware the ides of March!”

“Et tu, Brutus?”