05 Apr Audit of multi-million dollar state IT spending will proceed
Madison, Wis. — The Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to authorize an audit of troubled information technology system projects in state agencies.
The 6-0 vote came after several hours of testimony on Wednesday from state auditors and agency personnel confirmed the state has lost millions of dollars that cannot be recouped.
Large-scale projects in several agencies have been plagued by varying problems, including delays in implementation, operational problems upon implementation, and cost overruns. The agencies affected include the Department of Transportation, the Department of Revenue, the University of Wisconsin System, and the State Elections Board.
For example, a $14 million contract for a voter registration database, which represents the development of an entirely new system, is not on schedule, resulting in the failure to meet at least one federal deadline. The Elections Board is administering the contract.
The audit comes as state IT spending has more than doubled in the past seven years. The current estimate of annual IT-related expenditures exceeds $740 million, compared to the $320.5 million spent in 1998-99.
State auditor Janice Mueller said the state has lost millions of dollars, but she could not attach a precise figure to the state’s problematic technology implementation. “How many projects have failed and how much money can’t be recouped is unknown at this time,” she said.
The scope of the audit is along the lines of recommendations submitted by Mueller. It will include:
• An inventory of projects in progress in each executive branch agency. The inventory is to identify project budget and scope, start date, and expected completion date.
• An inventory of projects completed at each executive branch agency in Fiscal Year 2003-2004 and FY 2004-05, identifying total expenditures and whether the project was completed within budget and according to schedule.
• Case studies of selected major projects to identify the nature of problems that have occurred and the reasons for them.
• A review of the effectiveness of oversight structures established in state law as well as current contracting procedures that pertain to IT projects, including mechanisms employed by other states.
• Mueller isn’t sure how long the audit will take, but was directed to complete it in time for the start of the legislature’s budget deliberations in early 2007.