Inside the Capitol

Sunday, January 21, 2007

1-24 Lawmakers Should Tend To SHARE

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- If the problems with SHARE, the state's new $28 million computer system, can't be worked out by the end of the 2007 Legislature, they'll probably languish for another year.
Operation of the state government's computer system isn't the Legislature's responsibility, but it has oversight power and no one else is taking much care of getting the many problems fixed.
Competent operation of the state computer system is the executive branch's responsibility, and that ultimately means Gov. Bill Richardson.
But it hasn't become a priority of the governor yet. His only priority, so far, has been to assure that no state employee publicly criticizes the faulty system.
A Roswell businessman who has been harmed by the new system e-mails asking where is the uproar from supervisors, division chiefs and cabinet secretaries?
They've all been told that their job is to defend the system to the 60,000 contractors and vendors and the 24,000 state employees who may complain about being damaged.
State employees blame their cabinet secretaries for telling them not to criticize the system but cabinet secretaries tell me they are being muzzled too. And the plea from everyone is not to use names or they will be in big trouble.
The entire scenario is typical Bill Richardson. The system was bought off the shelf, for the cheapest price possible, with no special adaptations for New Mexico's needs. A company was hired to install the system and get it operating. Of the four bidders, the award went to the least known company.
The governor ordered that everything be up and running in half the recommended time and with many fewer consultants. It didn't work.
Many state employees weren't paid on time or received only partial payments. That resulted in bank overdrafts and insurance lapses. The state wrote letters to financial institutions explaining the situation and requesting them to eliminate their charges. But the state has assumed no responsibility to make its employees whole.
Many contractors and vendors went months without being paid. Some refuse to do any more business with the state. Others have sued.
Much of state government has slowed down because not only does the computer system handle payments, it handles agency budgets and human resources.
Even though SHARE has inconvenienced many more people than the recent storms that stopped traffic going east out of Albuquerque, it hasn't received the publicity. By our third snow storm in three weeks, Gov. Richardson had state agencies mobilized so completely that we may have been over-prepared.
The governor needs to do the same thing with SHARE and the Legislature should pressure him to do it before its March 17 adjournment.
The interim Legislative Finance Committee did a good job of grilling SHARE executives at its October meeting. By the panel's December meeting, the SHARE chiefs had some answers and promises, but state employees tell me the committee went far too easy on them.
One of the promises was that all problems will be ironed out by March. There are suspicions that might mean the end of March, when lawmakers already have gone home.
The state has a bonanza of new money streaming in for this legislative session. Let's spend a little of it on hiring the necessary people to get our newest faulty computer system working.
We never seem to learn. This is not the first new computer system to tie state government in knots. Remember the new system at the Taxation and Revenue Department several years ago that was supposed to solve all our tax reporting problems?
And then there was the State Land Office's ONGARD system for oil and gas accounting. People in the industry tell me they spent millions adapting to the system, which still has its flaws 20 years later.
WED, 1-24-07

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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