After a series of IT projects resulted in less-than optimal outcomes, Hawaii wants a detailed report of where the money has gone in hopes that it can better invest in future endeavors.
(TNS) -- In an effort to get a grip on the growing cost of complex state computer projects, the state auditor has hired a private auditing firm to finally inventory how much state agencies are actually spending on information technology, and what the projects are designed to accomplish.
The auditor has awarded a $150,000 contract to Accuity LLP to review and compile information technology expenditures in all state departments over the past four years except for the University of Hawaii, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Department of Education.
“We need to have a real clear game plan, or things are going to go sideways. You look at rail, and rail has got the public’s ire because of all the questionable expenditures. We don’t want this to be rail No. 2,” said Sen. Glenn Wakai, Chairman, Senate Committee on Economic Development, Environment and Technology.
The audit was ordered by state lawmakers under Senate Concurrent Resolution 162, which observed that the state’s information technology infrastructure is “both dilapidated and decentralized.”
Wakai (D-Salt Lake-Foster Village), chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Environment and Technology, said information technology is key to making state government more efficient, and lawmakers understand they will need to spend tens of millions of dollars — and perhaps hundreds of millions — on computer improvements.
However, “that’s where government sometimes falls flat on its face — in execution of necessary plans,” he said. “We don’t have a great track record with implementing IT systems. I think we need to have a real clear game plan, or things are going to go sideways. You look at rail, and rail has got the public’s ire because of all the questionable expenditures. We don’t want this to be rail No. 2.”
One computer project that ended particularly badly this year was the so-called “FAST” project that was canceled in March. The state spent $13.88 million in that failed effort to replace an out-of-date computer system in the state Highways Division, but the new system never worked.
Earlier this month, the state sued Colorado-based consultant Ciber Inc., alleging the company failed to perform under the FAST contract, defrauded the state, and used “inappropriate political influence” to persuade the state to continue making payments.
Ciber countered that the lawsuit by the state attorney general “is frivolous, contains numerous lies and misstatements, and is completely without merit.”
Whatever the outcome of that lawsuit, the canceled project means state transportation officials won’t get the new computer system they need anytime soon.
Wakai said there was no one project or incident that prompted lawmakers to push for an inventory of state computer projects “but I think the public deserves better, and we haven’t given them reason to have confidence in the way we build our IT infrastructure.”
He added, “I think this hopefully will give us a more clear game plan, and assure the public that we’re going down the right road.”
The resolution calling for the inventory of computer projects notes that the state Office of Information Management and Technology is already working with state agencies to compile an accurate “information technology investment portfolio” for the executive branch, but lawmakers decided not to wait.
The resolution calls for a listing of all computer expenditures, and the purpose of the spending. It also tasks the auditor with pulling together a list of all information technology positions within state government, and with producing a summary of computer expenses by department.
Acting State Auditor Jan Yamane said state departments traditionally have each independently purchased the computer equipment and systems they needed.
“I don’t think anybody has a handle on what is being spent and how and where it’s being spent because even with OIMT and all of that, the agencies still pretty much handle their own IT services because that’s the way it grew up in the state,” she said.
Accuity is scheduled to report back to the Legislature with the results of its review before lawmakers reconvene in January.
Once lawmakers have that data, “then we can start asking questions,” Wakai said. “I think sometimes the state is such a huge monster that we have a bunch of contracts that lawmakers may or may not even know about.
“If we don’t know what’s going on, then how in the world can we assure the public that we’re utilizing the resources in a responsible manner?” he asked. “This is step one in finding out what is going on in the IT universe for the state of Hawaii.”
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