The state has ordered a software company to halt work on a massive citizen database for the Michigan State Police, saying the product the company has delivered to date is “inoperable,” records show.
(TNS) — The state of Michigan has ordered a software company to halt work on a massive citizen database for the Michigan State Police, saying the product the company has delivered to date is “inoperable,” records show.
And in a letter disputing a recent $2.6-million invoice from the contractor, Information Builders, the Attorney General’s Office cites among its concerns the company’s hiring of the MSP captain who was in charge of information technology and retired to become a vice president for the company, as well as the possible hiring of a second former MSP official.
The Free Press first reported in April on a $12.2-million state contract with Information Builders to create a massive data hub that would produce “golden records” on citizens, combining data from a wide range of sources, along with data and mapping on crime, traffic accidents, and other incidents.
The project was controversial from a civil liberties standpoint because future plans included expanding it to include social media and U.S. Department of Homeland Security files — which could include immigration status — and even to use the data to predict future crime and car crashes, according to the Information Builders website. None of those features had been incorporated as of last April, an MSP spokeswoman said.
The Free Press also reported that Capt. David Kelly was retiring from the MSP to work for Information Builders, and that a top MSP civilian working on information technology, Chief Innovation Officer Deepinder Uppal, had resigned April 8 after the company expressed interest in recruiting him. At the time, the MSP said Uppal had several job offers and officials did not know where he planned to work next. Uppal is now a vice president of innovation and technology at Information Builders, according to his LinkedIn page.
Unlike some states, Michigan has no "revolving door" policy or law to prevent state officials from going to work for contractors they dealt with in their public payroll jobs.
Messages left Wednesday with Information Builders officials in New York City were not returned. Kelly and Uppal did not respond to messages seeking comment, sent Wednesday through LinkedIn.
In a Feb. 3 letter, Joe Ernst, a purchasing official with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, told Information Builders that the state wanted the company to stop all work on the contract Feb. 10 "due to the state's continuing concerns with Information Builders' performance, including ... the inoperable central Data Hub."
Ernst said the stop work order also applies to 25 different software licenses because the software in question "can only be used with a fully operational Data Hub," which the company "has not delivered."
In a separate Feb. 3 letter to the company's associate general counsel, Assistant Attorney General Suzanne Hassan disputed a $2.6-million invoice Information Builders sent to the state on Dec. 27 and raised the prospect of the state terminating the contract if issues could not be amicably resolved.
"Due to the failed performance of (Information Builders), the state cannot use the vast majority of licensed products in the manner and for the purpose contemplated by the contract," Hassan wrote.
"The state will not pay license fees for software that is rendered effectively useless."
Hassan also told the company attorney, Thomas Savoth, to preserve a wide range of evidence or potential evidence related to the contract.
Among the evidence she said she wanted preserved was records related to the design or creation of Data Hub, the development and creation of the contract and related work, and "the possible employment of former state employees," including Kelly and Uppal.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Dana Nessel, would not elaborate Wednesday on why the hiring of state employees was cited as a potential concern in connection with the Information Builders contract.
Kelly, the former captain, "has not been affiliated with this contract since his departure from state employment," MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner said.
Most state contracts allow the state to terminate a contract "for convenience," meaning no specific cause or grievance has to be cited. That clause was useful when the state withdrew early from multimillion-dollar prison food contracts and returned the prison food work to state employees in 2018.
Hassan said in the letter that Information Builders "insisted" that the standard termination for convenience clause be removed from its contract with the state.
"This leaves the state in the position of either having to terminate this contract for cause — which remains an option — or mutually agreeing to reduce the scope of the contract" to cover the limited software functions the state says are working and wants to continue to use, Hassan wrote.
A "termination for cause is a drastic step" that could "detrimentally impact ... future bids and contract awards with the state and other government entities, a disadvantage that we would hope to avoid imposing," Hassan wrote.
Ernst said the exception to the stop work order is four software licenses used for Mi-Intel Search, which is operating.This feature enables "troopers and detectives to query all the major MSP data sources by person, address and many other variables," according to an article posted on the Information Builders website last year.
Hassan said in her letter the state is willing to continue paying $150,000 a year for those applications.
©2020 the Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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