Rhode Island’s Legacy IT Systems Need Updating, Auditor Says

Some of the state's critical systems utilize outdated technology, which makes operations vulnerable from a business continuity and systems security perspective, according to an independent auditor.

by Patrick Anderson, The Providence Journal, R.I. / April 5, 2016

(TNS) -- Progress reports on Rhode Island information technology projects have often made glum and repetitive reading in recent years.

The Division of Motor Vehicles computer system has been two decades in the making. The cost of the United Health Infrastructure Project has soared to an estimated $380 million.

The state's accounting systems have not drawn as much attention as the DMV or health-care projects, but efforts to improve them have also been slow and hindered by a lack of resources, according to the last several annual reports from independent auditor general Dennis Hoyle.

"Some of the state's critical systems utilize outdated technology which makes these operations vulnerable from a business continuity and systems security perspective," Hoyle wrote in the latest audit findings. "Certain legacy systems utilize software that is no longer supported and the availability of skilled personnel to work on the systems is limited."

Hoyle found similar weaknesses with the Rhode Island Financial and Accounting Network Systems after his previous two annual audits.

The state purchased an Oracle E-Business package to develop RIFANS into a "comprehensive, integrated" accounting and reporting system, but a lack of funds, doubts about the Oracle system and difficulty finding staff trained in the system meant several of the modules, including payroll, were never implemented, Hoyle said. Without those functions, the state has had to turn to outdated systems or inefficient multi-department processes.

Hoyle recommended the state put together a strategic plan for completing the entire financial accounting and reporting system.

Asked for Rhode Island's current accounting software plans, Department of Administration spokeswoman Brenna McCabe wrote that the state has been systematically adding new functions to its accounting system over the years, such as a job listings portal.

"We are also working on the new Scheduling, Time, Leave & Attendance system, which will be integrated with RIFANS and the mainframe," McCabe said. "In the fall, we will be working with the agency leaders in Human Resources, the Central Business Office, and Finance to develop an updated strategic technology plan."

Hoyle by phone said the worker time and attendance system could be a precursor to introducing the fully-integrated payroll system that is eventually needed.

Other government computer issues identified in Hoyle's report include tightening up the state's information technology security procedures and streamlining he Department of Transportation's accounting system.

The DOT currently uses its own system in addition to the RIFANS system, and Hoyle recommended going to one exclusively or making sure the two are better synchronized would make things more efficient.

"RIDOT has reevaluated its financial accounting systems and has staff dedicated to performing reconciliations to ensure both systems have accurate data and to ensure the most efficient operations possible with the two systems," DOT Spokesman Charles St. Martin said in an email about the agency's accounting plans. [RIFANS] does not have all the necessary modules needed by RIDOT."

"At such time RIFANS is equipped with the necessary modules and functions needed by RIDOT then our Department will be able to explore how to combine the two systems to utilize just one," he added.

©2016 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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