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What will state learn from payroll failure?

August 13, 2013|By Chris Megerian
  • Controller John Chiang's office oversaw the effort to upgrade the state's payroll system.
Controller John Chiang's office oversaw the effort to upgrade the… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO -- Across California government, officials are pursuing dozens of technology projects worth $5 billion total.

It's a massive amount of money dedicated to an area that has been an expensive quagmire for the state.

Lawmakers are now wrestling with the failure of a costly and complex upgrade to the state payroll system. Known as the 21st Century Project, it was halted in February after testing revealed serious problems and the contractor, SAP Public Services, was fired.

Legislative analysts say an effort to learn from the project's mistakes has been hampered by a decision not to pursue an independent assessment of what went wrong.

“The dollar value of that benefit … could vastly outweigh the dollar value of the legal stakes we see right now,” said Chas Alamo, an analyst at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Money for an assessment was not included in the budget because administration officials didn't want any of its potential conclusions hampering the state's ability to fight SAP in court.

Other reviews are underway. A panel of lawmakers will meet Thursday to discuss the project, and the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released its own report Monday.

The report, detailed in Tuesday's issue of The Times, cast some blame on Controller John Chiang's office, which was responsible for overseeing the payroll upgrade.

A spokesman for Chiang disputed many of the report's conclusions, and Chiang's office released its own, internal review of the project. 

The internal review blamed SAP for delivering an "unstable payroll system." When testing revealed problems last year, "SAP executives seemed perplexed," the review said. "SAP could not keep pace with fixing the system errors." 

The company has defended its work on the project, and the issue is expected to be settled in court.


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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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