California’s tech problems continue – Whittier Daily News


In what is almost becoming a New Year’s tradition in California, the state’s FI$Cal project has missed another deadline for completion.

A new report by the California state auditor follows up on the “significant concerns” about the development and implementation of the Financial Information System for California, cutely named FI$Cal, which was initiated in 2005. The project was supposed to develop a comprehensive budget system that would connect to the information technology systems used by the state controller and other state departments. In 2006, the state said FI$Cal would combine California’s accounting, budgeting, cash management, procurement and more systems into one unified, modern one.

Deadlines for completion were missed again and again, most recently in July 2016, July 2017, July 2019 and June 2020.

The latest Special Project Report (SPR) issued by the state projects that the cost will be more than $960 million, and extends the project’s official end date to June 2022.

However, the auditor’s office warned the governor and the Legislature in the latest report that “the Project Office will not complete the project by its scheduled end date of June 2022.” One key step requires the State Controller’s Office to compare the data from FI$Cal to the data in the state’s legacy systems to verify that the comprehensive financial data produced by FI$Cal is accurate. “This verification process has fallen behind schedule,” the auditors reported, “and the project office has not released a new schedule as of December 2021.”

In addition, the Department of FI$Cal will have to ensure that it has the staff and the resources to operate the system after the transition from the vendor’s staff and resources. “The department may struggle to successfully manage this transition,” the auditors said, given that “the project has had a vacancy rate of more than 15 percent for the past five years.”

The FI$Cal project has been scaled back, eliminating many of the promised features and key functionalities, such as a system of statewide loan accounting. As a result, the state will continue to use legacy systems even after FI$Cal is completed, which defeats one of the original purposes of the now billion-dollar project—to replace the state’s multiple legacy systems with a single, modern integrated system.

The boondoggle energy gets stronger on this project with each new contract awarded to work on it. In June 2021, two new contracts were approved for work on the postponed features, and these have since been extended to December 2022 at a total cost to the taxpayers of $6 million. But there is still no schedule for developing the postponed features. The contracts demonstrate that “the department will incur significant expenses related to FI$Cal’s development long after the project’s official end date.”

This is going to be costly to taxpayers in other ways, too. The state’s inability to meet deadlines for accurate financial statements could affect the financial markets’ view of the state’s debt and could result in higher borrowing costs for projects such as schools and infrastructure. Certain federal funding could be at risk if the state’s financial reports are delayed or inaccurate.

The auditors have designated FI$Cal as one of the “high risk” programs that need more monitoring and careful scrutiny. The list of state programs receiving extra scrutiny for potential waste, fraud and abuse is long. And a long-promised tool for monitoring the state’s spending isn’t close to being finished.

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