IBM-Cognos to refund $13 million to Massachusetts

IBM-Cognos to refund $13 million to Massachusetts

IBM will repay $13 million to Massachusetts due to a software procurement deal state officials concluded was flawed.

IBM will repay US$13 million to Massachusetts for performance management software its subsidiary, Cognos, sold to the US state in August 2007, according to an agreement reached last week.

The deal came under scrutiny last year following allegations the procurement process had been rushed to favor Cognos.

IBM declined to comment beyond a brief statement confirming it will give back the money and that the state will return the software. The statement also noted that Cognos struck the deal before IBM acquired it.

An IBM spokesman, Chris Andrews, refused to provide documentation pertaining to the agreement, as did Governor Deval Patrick's office, which issued a similar statement.

Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi has been at the center of a political firestorm over the controversy, with allegations flying over his connections to Cognos. The Boston Globe reported that Cognos was a sponsor of a memorial golf tournament DiMasi helped organize and that a DiMasi friend served as a lobbyist for the vendor.

DiMasi has adamantly denied any wrongdoing. His office declined to comment on Friday.

However, a March report by state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan's office provides a time line of an investigation the agency conducted into the software deal.

The inspector general began scrutinizing the procurement following a tip from a whistleblower, as well as a December request from Patrick's administration, according to Jack McCarthy, a spokesman for Sullivan's office.

"They accomplished what we asked them to do, it appears, to get the money back from a flawed procurement process," McCarthy said. "It's nice to know IBM recognized the flaws in the process and did the right thing for Massachusetts. We're also happy the Patrick administration hung tough and followed through."

The report does not mention DiMasi, but describes a number of alleged flaws in the way the Cognos pact was formed.

For one, the state's Information Technology Division did not widely advertise the fact it was looking for performance management software, according to the report.

Instead, "a staff member at ITD simply consulted a chart of leaders in performance management developed by the analytical firm Gartner Group and e-mailed the Request for Quotes to four companies identified as 'leaders.' "

Three vendors -- Cognos, Oracle and SAS -- responded to the e-mail, according to the report. ITD staffers developed a scoring sheet containing 104 criteria. The ITD team in charge never finished evaluating the vendors with the sheet, but at the time they stopped Cognos had the high score, with 69.39 points, followed by SAS with 57.38 and Oracle with 27.49, the report states.

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