Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine Wants Tech Agency and CIO Under His Control

Virginia governor blames recent IT problems on lack of oversight.

by / July 30, 2009

Photo: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine

Gov. Tim Kaine has weighed in on Virginia's recent technology problems, saying the agency that oversees IT services to state agencies should answer to him, according to The Associated Press.

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), which oversees a multibillion dollar outsourcing contract to provide IT services, has been struggling with cost overruns and poor services that culminated in the firing of VITA's director and CIO Lem Stewart last month.

Speaking on his monthly radio show, Kaine said he hopes the state Legislature "will come to the conclusion that this agency should report to the governor like every other agency does."

VITA partnered with Northrop Grumman in a $2.4 billion, 10-year contract to upgrade, consolidate and manage the state's IT systems. Two legislative committees are probing charges that VITA and its partner Northrop Grumman have missed deadlines, failed to provide services to agencies and have not controlled costs as promised.

CIO Lem Stewart blamed the problem and cost overruns on Northrop. At one point he tried to hold up payment of invoices, but was fired instead. Secretary of Technology Leonard Pomata took over as interim CIO, but has been criticized by the Legislature for holding the dual role of VITA's overseer and Cabinet secretary.

Despite Stewart's complaints about Northrop's performance, Kaine said he believed the IT service problems stem from the structure and management of VITA, not the private sector partner. According to AP, Kaine wants the state's General Assembly to transfer oversight of VITA -- and the CIO -- to his office. Currently VITA's director reports to an oversight panel, the Information Technology Investment Board, a majority of whose members are appointed by the Legislature.

VITA was created six years ago when U.S. Sen. Mark Warner was governor. One of the agency's key components was the creation of a CIO position that didn't report to a governor, who can only serve for a single four-year term, and reports instead to the Oversight Board. The original idea was to give the position of CIO some stability and -- hopefully -- some longevity to help implement and direct strategic IT initiatives for the state.

If the Legislature gives Kaine what he has requested, then Virginia's experiment with an independent CIO appears to be over.