AUSTIN (KXAN) – Weeks before a new internal audit of the state’s child protection agency is due to be complete, a report from Texas State Auditor’s Office into the 21CT scandal reveals the Department of Family Protective Services paid nearly $500,000 for a pilot project to develop an analytic tool to guide child safety decisions. The contract was canceled four months into a six-month project once the Health and Human Services Commissioner halted the procurement of services from the 21CT company, the report states.
The report shows after the former Deputy Inspector General became the commission’s interim chief counsel in February 2014, he:
- Encouraged the Department of Family and Protective Services to use 21CT’s services for a pilot project to develop a child protection analytic solution through the Department of Information Resources’ existing cooperative contract with 21CT.
- Informed the Department of Family and Protective Services that the pilot project would not be paid for with funds from the Department of Family and Protective Services’ operating budget.
- Directed the development of an interagency agreement between the Commission (HHSC) and the Department of Family and Protective Services that specified that the pilot project would be paid for by (1) directing another vendor to pay 21CT for the majority of the cost and (2) using funds from the Commission for the remainder of the cost.
Ultimately, however, the Department of Family and Protective Services paid 21CT $452,000 (the payment amount initially agreed upon for a six-month pilot project) from its own funds, the report states.
This project was significant locally because it was one of numerous recommendations to improve child safety services listed in the Oct. 2, 2014 Review of CPS Investigations Regarding Colton Turner. Certain recommendations were already underway at the time such as bringing in special master investigators to reduce case backlogs in Travis County. Colton Turner’s body was discovered in mid-September 2014. KXAN has reached out to DFPS Commissioner John Specia for comment to the April 2nd SAO report.
The State Auditor’s report continues: ‘It is important to note that the Department of Family and Protective Services’ procurement from 21CT did not comply with the Commission’s standard procedure to obtain three bids for services obtained through a deliverables-based information technology services cooperative contract. The pilot project was initially scheduled to continue for six months; however, the actual duration of the pilot project was less than four months because the Commission’s executive commissioner canceled the agreement.’
The report states the Auditor’s Office investigation is ongoing. However, it makes a series of recommendations to improve the agency’s procurement and contracts process.