The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation filed a lawsuit against a California-based software company today, alleging that the company failed to deliver on its promise to build a new software platform despite billing the Gates Foundation $2.8 million for the work.
The Gates Foundation is suing Saama Technologies on claims of fraud, breach of contract, violations of the Washington state Consumer Protection Act and more. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Western Washington, the Foundation alleges it “received nothing of value” from Saama, that the company overstated its expertise and hid past problems delivering on projects.
GeekWire has contacted Saama for comment on the suit, and we will update this story if we hear back.
In 2015, The Gates Foundation brought in Saama Technologies to build a business intelligence and analytics platform that could be used internally to manage data, according to the suit. Saama was to build out the project in phases, with the first pieces scheduled to go live by June 2016. But even before work began, Saama replaced its team with an entirely new group of employees. This, it turns out, would be a recurring theme as the team that worked on the project allegedly turned over several times.
The Gates Foundation claims it scaled back the project significantly several times to “help Saama deliver something of value.” When Saama did finally deliver something, a beta focused on financial systems, the product was “unusable for all but a handful of Gates Foundation employees, because Saama developers had been unable to create a program that kept sensitive financial data, such as employee salaries, medical leave, and benefits, secure,” according to the filing.
The Gates Foundation terminated the contract in February 2017, after more than 18 months, with Saama close to a year behind schedule.
“At the time the contract was terminated, approximately 90% of Saama’s software code was nonfunctional or unusable. Saama’s product was so full of material defects that it had to be scrapped entirely,” the complaint says.
The Gates Foundation eventually brought in another company to build out the platform and fix all of Saama’s alleged mistakes.
“To date, the Gates Foundation has had to pay North Highland Company and other third-party contractors roughly $710,000 to address and remedy Saama’s failures. Unlike Saama, North Highland Company was able to build a functional product and did so swiftly,” the Gates Foundation alleges.
As all this was going on, Saama used the Gates Foundation’s name in advertisements and press releases as an example of a prominent customer, allegedly without its permission, violating their contract.
The Gates Foundation is asking the court to force Saama to pay back the money it billed for the software platform, as well as additional damages and an injunction against using the Gates Foundation name in promotional materials. The foundation says in a statement that it’s “committed to ensuring its resources are focused on achieving its charitable objectives.”