Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lots of activity today in the paper.

First, though, I got an email from C. B. Forgotston in the mail this morning, and I hope he'll put it on his site. He asks the right questions about the ICFI / Road Home fiasco. Here are a few:

-- Who selected ICF to manage LA's program?
--What leverage does LA have over ICF?
-- What company was hired to manage Mississippi's similar program?
-- How long will ICF be given to get it right?

All of these are questions that the news media and the legislators in this state should be asking. The governor may be frustrated with the pace of the program, but the only way to make progress is to haul the people responsible out into the public eye and make answer for their inaction. It's no good just to say that you're impatient with the progress ICFI is making.

You can find Forgotston here. I don't always agree with his point of view, but there's no question he has the state's best interests at heart.

What set off Forgotston's email this morning was this article in the Picayune. Here's the central thesis of the piece.

The record shows ICF making critical misjudgments almost every step of the way, typically by failing to bring sufficient staff resources to bear as applicants move through the process. A shortage of operators at a phone call-in center is addressed, only to be followed by a shortage of interviewers as applicants sign up for face-to-face encounters with ICF advisers. And so on down the line.

As Forgotston notes, though the article is quite long, there's little new in it, and very little attempt to find those responsible for the multiple screw-ups of ICFI. But it's an article worth reading and re-reading for gems like this:
Other critics of ICF point out that in Mississippi, the company handling the first phase of its homeowner grant program has already closed on 80 percent of the 14,615 applications deemed eligible for compensation, with total awards expected to reach about $1 billion. Mississippi officials attribute much of that progress to the fact that their contractor overstaffed at the beginning and quickly began laying off employees when the work was done. The state also loosened its verification requirements.
And this:
Tulane University professor Melanie Ehrlich, founder and co-chairman of the Citizens' Road Home Action Team, said members of the Louisiana Recovery Authority were so worried about designing a fraud-proof program that it is now loaded down with "excessive" verification requirements, such as multiple identification checks and title searches for homeowners who have already furnished up-to-date mortgage and title records.

And this:
Jones said the pilot project exemplifies ICF's approach, which he likens to a "python swallowing a pig." Instead of working out all the major kinks in advance, he said, ICF hasn't dealt with many issues until they became a crisis. Usually, he said, that happened when a large number of applications hit a critical point in the pipeline, such as scheduling appointments with advisers or calculating awards.

And more, including the fact that the Road Home Program is now requiring ICFI employees to identify themselves as such, not as members of the Road Home Program. The state program no longer wants to be identified with ICFI.

1 comment:

bayoustjohndavid said...

I'm not a Blanco Defender and I'm certainly not a Road Home defender, but i can't figure out why the Times Picayune refuses to mention that Mississippi got its money six months earlier. Blanco is so easy to criticize that I'm mystified by the overkill. At any rate, there seems to be a memo at the Picayune telling writers not to mention the six months.