By Clarence Fanto, Special to The Eagle
PITTSFIELD -- When Rachel Kaprielian, current head of the state Registry of Motor Vehicles, succeeds Joanne Goldstein as Secretary of Labor on Feb. 1, she’ll have a mandate to straighten out the state’s still problem-plagued online system for filing and renewing unemployment benefit claims.
"I’m very optimistic about Kaprielian," said John Barrett III, the former executive director at BerkshireWorks, the one-stop career center. "She’s an administrator. She hopefully will take care of it, but she’s got to get out into the vineyards to talk to the people at the career centers and hear from the claims-takers. If she will listen to them, a lot of this will be cleaned up."
While downplaying issues with the claims system as the reason for Goldstein’s departure, Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters at the Statehouse last Friday that Kaprielian would "continue the team’s insistence that those issues get resolved quickly for people who rely on this assistance."
"I think Gov. Patrick is a pretty smart guy," said Barrett. "He knows there’s a problem, and he’d hate to see his legacy determined by the failure of this UI Online system." Patrick has less than a year to serve in office.
The state’s new online system was installed by Deloitte Consulting under a contract Goldstein took over from former Labor Secretary Suzanne Bump of Great Barrington, the current state auditor.
According to contracting specialists cited by The Boston Globe, the contract with Deloitte negotiated by Bump offered few protections for taxpayers and limited oversight. Last year, Goldstein acknowledged that the project had gone so far off track by the time she became secretary that she considered firing Deloitte, which has encountered similar problems with its sites in Florida and California.
Patrick gave Goldstein credit for tightening the contract with Deloitte "to hold them accountable for any fixes or improvements that need to be made."
Last year, the Registry of Motor Vehicles awarded a $77 million contract to Deloitte to modernize its computer system, even though the state Department of Revenue had fired the firm midway through its own $114 million contract because of technical problems that caused officials to lose confidence in the consultant.
Information from The Boston Globe was included in this report.