A statewide call center, set up to help Hoosiers down on their luck, is drawing fire from employees who work there.This story again goes to show you that not every government service should be privatized, and that giving contractors long term contracts amounts to bestowing on private business a government-established monopoly insulated from market forces - the very opposite of the goal of privatization. At the very least, government officials need to be diligent to ensure the vendor complies with the contract. Fortunately, here we have the media overlooking the shoulder of the contractor, ACS. With regard to thousands of other government contracts, there is little in the way of oversight when it comes to compliance.
Workers say the state is trying to speed up a billion dollar system, by delivering promises they can't keep. Some workers told 13 Investigates they're being dismissed from the job for veering off the FSSA script.
They went to work at the FSSA call center to help. The agency provides food stamps, cash assistance and Medicaid for the neediest Hoosiers. But now upset workers, some dismissed, are speaking out about internal policies that require them to give callers a line. Lines they say are helpless and in some cases misleading.
One former employee said, "I was told to tell people that their benefits would be authorized there in 48 hours and they weren't." It's a story other current and former employees back up."We were told to lie," said Gregory Guy, a former Tier 2 coach at the center.
Guy was dismissed as a supervisor for veering off script with an irate client. He himself had written up employees for failing to follow nearly 200 scripted responses.
Employees are told exactly what to say on everything from the status of a case, to a call from the governor's office, to a bomb threat.
Nearly a half dozen employees told 13 Investigates they were instructed in January to tell a backlog of clients they would receive their benefits within two business days, a 48-hour turnaround.
"90 percent of the calls that came in that day were calling in 48 hours later asking where their benefits were," added another worker who wanted to keep her identity concealed out of fear of retaliation.
"A lot of people were questioning it, but you had no choice," said Guy, explaining the possible repercussions. "You could get wrote up, you could get dismissed from the project. So you did what you were told to do."
ACS, a subcontractor hired by IBM to oversee the Marion call center, and FSSA spokesman Marcus Barlow dispute allegations that the state ordered workers to give misleading information.