14 Jun GOP lawmaker faults Doyle for IT problems
Madison, Wis. – Before Gov. Jim Doyle began turning up the heat on Republicans on the subject of stem cell research, a key Republican legislator had already turned the tables on him regarding problematic state information technology projects.
The projects, which now are the subject of a state audit, recently were placed at the feet of the Doyle Administration by State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, who has worked with the Governor on several IT initiatives.
Kanavas does not think the troubled government projects will derail legislative attempts to promote technology as an economic development tool in the private sector, but he said the Doyle Administration has got to start executing the projects correctly.
“The best plans can be blown up by a lack of execution,” Kanavas said, “and the execution of these projects has been very problematic.”
State government’s information technology projects have been beset with implementation delays, cost overruns, and system failures. The projects were touted as a way to improve services and save money, but the difficulties have cast doubt on the prospect of savings. No one has put an exact price tag on the loss to taxpayers, but the estimate is in the millions.
Doyle said he is concerned about the problems, but noted that some of the projects were completed before he became governor. He also said the successful projects don’t get any attention in the press, and that even with the problematic ones, state technology employees believe they can work through many of the difficulties they encounter.
The Governor also suggested that state government IT projects are not much different from those in the private sector, which has experienced more than its share of IT failures. “We’re the biggest business in the state, the state government,” he noted. “We’ve got the biggest number of employees, the biggest IT systems in the state, and when I talk to businesses big and small, they are always complaining about IT systems that they thought were going to get going.”
The state spends about $740 million a year on information technology, and spending on contractors has doubled over the past decade to $90 million.
In February, the Department of Administration announced the state was scrapping an Oracle-based e-mail installation and attempting to recover $2.1 million in licenses and consulting fees. This consolidated e-mail system alone would have served 44,000 state employees with 19 servers instead of the current 220 servers, but it did not meet the state’s needs even after efforts to fix it.
At the time, State CIO Matt Miszewski said the state would proceed with Microsoft products, which much of state government already uses. The Oracle product was chosen over Microsoft because its $2.6 million bid was much lower than Microsoft’s $12 million bid, but Miszewski and DOA Secretary Stephen Bablitch indicated they could still save the state $1 million by continuing the consolidation project with Microsoft software.
The DOA’s migration from Oracle to its previous Microsoft platform should occur next weekend (June 17 and 18), Miszewski said.
Meanwhile, the state audit will include 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, and current contracting procedures that pertain to IT projects.
Kate Wade, a program evaluation director for the Legislative Audit Bureau, said auditors are in the early phase of field work on what she called an “inventory audit” with an analytical component. She said all audit work and findings remain confidential until all the work is complete.
“We aim to release the report in early calendar year 2007 so that it’s useful to the legislature as they go into their session,” Wade said. That session will include deliberations on the 2007-09 state budget.
Wade said those findings will be posted on the Audit Bureau’s Website, and she said it’s customary for the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to hold a public hearing on the findings of individual audits.
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• State IT failures are not inevitable
• Miszewski touts benefits of IT integration
• Oracle out, Microsoft in for state e-mail project
• Wisconsin introduces new state IT plan
• State CIO wants to unify electronic government