Inside the Capitol

Saturday, December 01, 2007

12-5 SHARE's Moment of Truth

By JAY MILLER

Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- The moment of truth has arrived for the state's new $30 million computer system. State officials now are admitting to major problems that will take big money and a big effort to fix.

      The immediate problems were easy to identify and fix. Those consisted of late or incorrect payments to employees, contractors and vendors. Those were mainly corrected by this time last year and the major static ended.

      But questions still floated about what happens at the end of the fiscal year, when books are closed and audited. And what happens when agencies make requests for federal reimbursements and can't come up with the necessary documentation?

      We now know that in some cases those are as messed up as paychecks were at the beginning of the year. Since last December, state officials in charge of the new SHARE system have reassured legislative oversight committees that the system is operating as intended. In one respect they were correct.

   Now, I absolutely am not an expert about computer systems. I know they're out to get me and that I'm destined to a battle of wills the rest of my life to get my office computer to perform the simple tasks I ask of it. I also know there are people who can bond with computers and get them to perform marvelous feats.

   But I do understand that this problem goes beyond computers. It goes to the efficiency of state government and how taxpayer money is spent. So I have consulted with people who don't get quoted in news coverage of the problem to seek help understanding what has happened.

   I've talked with representatives of companies that didn't get bids for the system or its installation. I've talked with legislators on the oversight committees and with state employees in charge of agencies that experienced little or no difficulty making SHARE work.

   Here's how I understand the situation at this point. The state needed a new and centralized accounting system. The many different systems throughout state government had become antiquated and unstable. Most other states recently have gone to central accounting systems. Some have had problems. Some haven't.

   The state put together a steering committee composed of representatives from the major affected departments. That committee list and other information are available at www.shareinfo.state.nm.us.

   The committee made many good decisions. The Peoplesoft system purchased from Oracle is the best in the business. Maximus, the company hired to make it work in New Mexico, is competent. It has had problems in some states and also successes.

   The decision to buy the system off the shelf rather than have it customized for New Mexico was wise. The cost is much less and it allows each agency to make exactly those changes it needs.

   But here is where the process broke down. It was necessary for the information technology staff in each agency to become fully familiar with the new system first before beginning customization.

   Ideally, three years ago, when the decision on a new system was made, one agency would have been chosen for a practice run. It would have kept its current system but representatives from every other agency would have participated in getting the new system operating and adapted to that agency.

   The following year, all of state government would try the new system, while still running their old system. It takes much extra work, but I'm told that every agency now is keeping its own set of "shadow books" while trying to make the new system work.

   Who's responsible for the rush job, on the cheap, that caused state employees not to be adequately trained to handle the system before it was put in operation?

   That's difficult to learn because almost no one wants to talk. Maybe it was the steering committee, but to me it sounds just like Gov. Bill "fast forward" Richardson who ordered the system be put in operation in half the time at half the cost.

   So until I hear otherwiseÂ…

WED, 12-05-07

 

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) insidethecapitol@hotmail.com

 

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