28 Aug Assembly Speaker's IT Task Force calls for state CIO
Madison, Wis. – It’s amazing what expensive state information technology failures can do to turn the political thought process on its head.
Having wrapped its investigation of state information technology failures, the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on those failures has put Republicans in the position of supporting the creation of a bureaucratic post – state chief information officer – and some Democrats pouring cold water on the idea.
The 16-member Task Force, comprised of state lawmakers and private sector technology executives, is recommending legislation to create a top IT official with the authority to closely monitor information technology projects, according to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal.
The Task Force was formed after a state IT audit identified 184 information technology projects that state agencies have begun or completed between 2004 and 2006 – many of them plagued by delays and cost overruns – that are expected to cost a total of $291.7 million.
Although the state has a top technology official, Oskar Anderson of the Department of Administration’s Division of Enterprise Technology, who took over earlier this year after the resignation of the controversial Matt Miszewski, task force members cited a lack of accountability for IT.
The Task Force, assembled by Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, has recommended a state CIO that reports to the governor and has the authority and resources to provide effective oversight.
Matt Canter, a spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle , agreed that more accountability is needed, but he said that comes into play more in holding contractor’s accountable and finding the expertise to negotiating computer contracts that better protect taxpayer interests. Canter also said the state would benefit from establishing uniform procedures across state agencies.
Canter said the Task Force’s proposal was tried and failed under former Gov. Scott McCallum, noting that some of the troubled IT projects – including the ENABLED and SUITES projects in the Department of Workforce Development – actually began when an IT director’s position existed.
“The governor is cool to the idea because it proved to be a costly and ineffective way to manage state IT,” Canter said.
Canter said improving the management of information technology projects is a continual challenge, and “anyone in the private sector would tell you that as well.”
State Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, is one of eight state lawmakers on the Task Force. Montgomery said he would support the creation of a state CIO only if the position carried the necessary authority to do the job effectively and if the person holding the position could be fired if he or she isn’t getting the desired results. Montgomery noted the irony of Repulicans advancing a bureaucratic solution, but he said the state would never fully outsource all of its IT needs.
“There is a huge IT bureaucracy in place at the state, and right now it is performing in such a way that is detrimental to the taxpayers,” he said.
Montgomery acknowledged that the Legislature was not happy with the previous CIO position but said the state should look at what went wrong and what it could do differently. “The one thing we can’t do is keep the status quo,” he said, noting that no one person has been held accountable for IT failures.
In its April report, the Legislative Audit Bureau recommended reactivating the Joint Committee on Information Policy and Technology and the IT Management Board.
State Sen. Pat Kreitlow, D-Chippewa Falls, said the state should first reconstitute the Joint Committtee on Information Policy and Technology before considering other solutions such as creating a state technology czar. Kreitlow, chairman of the Senate Committee on Campaign Finance Reform, Rural Issues, and Information Technology, said the state’s IT problems stem from the decision of previous legislatures to neglect oversight.
“We’re not doing our jobs if we’re not providing legislative oversight for certain functions,” Kreitlow said.
The Legislative Audit Bureau’s report noted that the Department of Administration has the authority to monitor and control the IT projects of executive branch agencies, including the establishment of performance measures for evaluating progress. However, not all state agencies are under the governor’s authority.
In addition, the audit bureau’s report recommended agencies to report by Oct. 1, 2007 to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on seven of the large, high-risk projects reviewed by the Audit Bureau, and it recommended that DOA report on progress toward establishing planning standards for large, high-risk projects and for enhanced project monitoring.
Meanwhile, Anderson has been directed to report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on his plan to correct the problems. The report is due in October.
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• Speaker announces business members of IT Task Force
• State technology chief endorses IT audit recommendations
• Technology audit rips poor planning and oversight
• Is the worst over for state technology failures?
• State of Wisconsin dumps another tech project
• Miszewski to depart as state IT audit wraps up