Anchorage Assembly Reluctantly Gives More Money to $81M Software Project

The system is slated to start operating in early October.

by Devin Kelly, Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage / July 26, 2017

(TNS) -- The Anchorage Assembly voted in favor Tuesday night of spending several million more dollars to finish the beleaguered city software upgrade project known as SAP.

But several Assembly members pointedly warned it was the last time. The project has cost more than $81 million to date.

"I will not vote for one more penny after this," said Assemblywoman Amy Demboski of Chugiak-Eagle River, a longtime critic of SAP.

SAP, named after the German company that built the software, replaces the city's aging business software system. The new software will handle critical municipal functions such as payroll, timekeeping and payments to companies that do business with the city.

The project started in 2011 with a $9 million budget. By the time Mayor Ethan Berkowitz inherited the project in the middle of 2015, the amount of money spent so far was nearing $50 million. In October 2015, after a "pause," an external committee concluded that the project was salvageable, and too much had been invested to turn back. A pair of reviews earlier that year blamed the failures on a crisis in leadership, organization and project management, not technological failures or the software itself. The Assembly on Tuesday night voted to spend another $5.8 million on the project.

This March, Berkowitz told Assembly members that nearly all of the money spent so far on the project had "no measurable benefit."

Assembly members Felix Rivera and Christopher Constant said they'd both heard a tidal wave of complaints from constituents in recent days about the expense of SAP. Assemblywoman Suzanne LaFrance of South Anchorage said she understood this to be the last large appropriation, and that she'd have trouble supporting another one in the short term.

But Zig Berzins, who has served as the Assembly's independent consultant for the SAP project, pointed out to Assembly members Tuesday night that if the city didn't finish the project, it would have to be paid back through the operating budget — an immediate cost to taxpayers.

"And that could be a real problem," Berzins said.

The system is slated to start operating in early October.

©2017 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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