(TNS) — The city of Santa Fe, N.M.’s contract with a Maine-based consultant helping to implement a multimillion-dollar software modernization project at city hall has almost quadrupled in a year and a half.
The latest six-figure increase since the city hired the firm in the fall of 2016 was endorsed Monday night by the city Finance Committee.
The city brought in the consultant to provide project management services for the city’s new enterprise resource planning system, a software overhaul city leaders have said will drastically improve basic city functions and rectify entrenched procedural shortcomings that have led to embarrassing audits and assessments.
The original contract amount for BerryDunn, headquartered in Portland, Maine, was $444,960. After the latest increase of $216,829, on top of five other contract amendments over the past 19 months, total compensation stands at $1.53 million.
The hike that won committee approval Monday “extends project management services … to synchronize with the revised Project ¡Andale! schedule,” says a city memo, referring to the modernization project by its internal nickname.
The change envisions a new January target date for completion of the “core financials” phase of the software modernization, originally scheduled to be finished this month, according to city documents.
That six-month delay was caused by “competing priorities,” said Deputy City Manager Renée Martínez, the city’s Project ¡Andale! sponsor. She said those included turnover in the city Finance Department, a comprehensive annual financial review and responding to a stinging external review last fall, the McHard report.
“We do have some amount of tasks that are overdue and we’re trying to catch up,” Martínez said. “If you ask me right now, we are still on schedule. But it’s a weekly, daily management concern of ours to keep on schedule.”
Money for the latest contract adjustment is in the project budget, she said.
The mayor and other city leaders have pointed to aspects of Project ¡Andale! as the answer to many of the questions raised by recent external assessments that have found the city has been ripe for possible fraud, waste and abuse.
Former City Manager Brian Snyder said the idea to grant $400,000 worth of 10- and 15-percent temporary pay raises for select employees working on Project ¡Andale! had been a BerryDunn recommendation.
“Temporary pay raises that reflect added duties outside of classification are not only a best practice recommended by BerryDunn, they also align with our value of respecting our workers by not demanding that they work for free,” Snyder said in early April.
Later that month, Mayor Alan Webber asked Snyder to resign for authorizing those raises in violation of a city human resources policy that required city council approval. The raises were then rescinded.
As a different means of providing “support” for city workers on the project, Martínez told Finance Committee members Monday the city had recently recommended raising the cap on compensation time for employees in “key departments” supporting the project to 160 hours a week from 80 hours a week. She said the city is awaiting a response to the proposal from the union that represents many city employees.
©2018 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.