Oklahoma IT Agency Needs $16M to Pay Its Bills

Officials with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services say the agency needs $7 million by April 1 to avoid serious disruptions in service. State lawmakers are hesitant to hand over the funds without a closer look at agency finances.

by Dale Denwalt The Oklahoman / March 21, 2019
Shutterstock

(TNS) — The state agency that provides information technology services for other agencies told lawmakers it needs $16 million to pay its bills.

Officials with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said the agency is behind on payments to its vendors and owes $7 million on invoices that are 60 days late. If lawmakers don't free up the cash, the agency said other state services could suffer.

OMES is a large agency that provides services to other state entities like human resources, budgeting, purchasing and IT. It receives an appropriation each year from the Legislature, but much of its operating costs are covered by payments it receives from its inter-agency contracts.

State Rep. Shane Stone, an Oklahoma City Democrat who sits on the committee that heard OMES' budget request, described gross mismanagement and a lack of oversight at the 8-year-old agency.

"I didn’t hear any explanation that made sense," Stone said. "A lot of that agency’s size comes from what it collects from other agencies. It sounds like maybe they had under-charged those agencies. To me, that’s even more worrisome."

Stone said he first learned about the problems last week after speculation at the Capitol about OMES finances.

The agency needs $7 million by April 1 to avoid serious disruptions in service, said Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson.

"I think they have money in their revolving funds to pay for that," said Thompson, R-Okemah.

As of now, Thompson isn't ready to consider doling out the remaining $9 million.

"I want to do more research into their finances," he said. "This is not a recent problem. While it may be recent to the legislature, it’s not a recent problem. It’s something we want to correct and make sure it doesn’t happen again."

While Thompson said he has full confidence in the executive branch to work through issues at OMES, he remains skeptical of the agency. This year he filed legislation to make IT services its own agency and give agencies more control over computer services and procurement.

©2019 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.