AUSTIN – Months before 21CT landed what is now the most controversial contract in Texas, it had to get approved to be eligible for no-bid state projects, and its effort did not start particularly well.
Hindered by a lack of experience, among other factors, the local technology company placed 35th out of 60 applicants in the initial evaluation for potential approval under the type of software it offered, according to records.
Then, in March 2012, as officials at the state Department of Information Resources neared decisions about which companies to approve, 21CT hired as its new president Frederick Chang, who then was serving on an unpaid advisory board to the department.
Three weeks later, the department chose 21CT among the finalists, paving the way for an approval that allowed the deal that eventually became worth $110 million.
Department of Information Resources employees work under strict rules that prohibit them from talking about evaluations when they are in progress, and no evidence has surfaced showing Chang affected approval decisions.
Lawmakers, however, say the revelations about another level of connections for the small Austin firm add still more questions to the ongoing scandal, especially because the way that 21CT got approved has earned far less scrutiny than the resulting no-bid contract from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for a Medicaid fraud detection system.