City audit shows San Diego’s internal technology systems need greater transparency, accountability

A new city audit says San Diego must boost the transparency and accountability of its internal computer and technology system so workers can more efficiently deliver services to residents and businesses.

The 89-page audit comes as San Diego has nearly tripled how much it spends on technology, an increase from $42 million in fiscal year 2015 to $123 million in fiscal year 2021.

Technology services, which now make up nearly 8 percent of San Diego’s $1.6 billion annual budget, have become more crucial to city operations during the pandemic.

Many city employees, especially white-collar employees, have been working from home since spring 2020. And in many departments, online meetings have replaced in-person staff meetings.

The audit also comes as San Diego launches a campaign to modernize, automate and centralize its efforts to help city workers efficiently use technology and computers.

City officials say the new campaign is ideal for compliance with the findings of the audit, which recommends San Diego hold itself to a higher standard regarding how technology staff respond to problems and concerns raised by workers.

The City Council is expected to discuss the audit later this winter. The report says there should be a series of new “key performance indicators” to gauge how quickly technology problems are resolved. It also recommends greater transparency for how the city spends money on technology to reduce the risk of overspending or redundancies. The greater transparency could help Mayor Todd Gloria and the City Council better evaluate the city’s spending on technology and help them understand why the technology budget has risen so rapidly in recent years.

The audit made seven formal recommendations. Jonathan Behnke, the city’s director of Information Technology, agreed to implement each of them by July 1.

He said new contracts with outside technology vendors will help the city implement the needed changes.

“The new contracts provided an opportunity to modernize, automate and centralize various aspects of information technology service delivery,” he said in response to the audit.

Centralizing employee requests for technology help will make it easier for the city to track how many requests it receives, how quickly those requests are resolved and emerging trends in the types of requests submitted. Multiple systems have previously handled requests, so it has not been possible for the city to track and analyze them all in one place.

The new contracts replace previous deals from 2012. The new contracts are with Zensar Technologies for “enterprise compute and workplace services” and with CGI for support services and “application development and maintenance.”

City technology services are handled by more than 70 information technology workers and 45 public safety radio engineers and support staff.

The city’s technology system spans 31 departments, more than 300 locations and more than 11,500 city employees.

A survey of city workers last April found that 67 percent consider city information technology services above average or excellent, while 21 percent deemed them average. Just over 8 percent of workers rated them below average or poor.

The survey showed that 90 percent of workers requested technology help in the previous 12 months, and that 74 percent had made multiple requests.

The audit noted that city efforts should become more efficient at solving problems. More than 22 percent of requests were “generally not fully resolved” on the first try, and sometimes it took “unreasonably long” to resolve issues.

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