State moving to upgrade IT

“The project is not about privatization ... It’s about being more cost effective. Ruth Johnson, Jindal administration aide

With the help of a private consultant, the Jindal administration plans to give a tuneup to a state government IT system that employs hundreds of workers and costs nearly half a billion dollars a year.

The administration recently sought proposals on how to repair a world of woes, including duplication, ineffective use of resources, a fragmented technical architecture and a limited ability to leverage economies of scale. The bottom line: The administration wants to get more efficient, reduce costs and consolidate.

Roughly 800 people work in information technology, the computer and telecommunication systems that store and use data — departments in 20 executive branch agencies.

Jindal administration aide Ruth Johnson said any positions eliminated will not be through layoffs, but when people retire or take other jobs.

She said the goal is not privatization in and of itself. although there may be some of that.

“The project is not about privatization ... It’s about being more cost effective,” said Johnson, the state’s chief information officer.

Legislative Auditor Daryl G. Purpera said state government needs to improve its IT track record after spending $100 million on a computer system upgrade plagued with problems.

The upgrade started under the Blanco administration and continued after Gov. Bobby Jindal took office. A report issued last year by Purpera’s office concluded good internal controls are needed with the launching of a new computer system to ensure accurate financial reporting.

His office found DOTD, which undertook the pilot program, failed to bill the federal government $26 million because of conversion and coding errors in the new system and inadequate reports.

“It does sound like a good idea,” Purpera said of the administration’s new IT project.

The computer system upgrade is advancing and will expand to three additional agencies next year, said Douglas Baker, spokesman for the Division of Administration.

He said the consolidation effort is unrelated to the years-long upgrade project.

Deloitte Consulting will receive up to $975,000 to take a 14-week look at staffing, server locations, maintenance contracts and other issues as well, as make recommendations and implement any needed staff augmentation or services.

One idea that likely will become a reality is the creation of a statewide project management office, which Purpera’s office recently told the administration was needed.

Johnson said the state’s IT system was set up 30 years ago without many changes made since then to take advantage of advancements that allow tasks to be handled remotely and virtually.

Another problem, she said, is that every agency decides independently what is needed.

Each year, Johnson said, state government spends $400 million on IT maintenance, infrastructure, employees and other related expenses. She said there is no target yet on how much less money the governor would like to spend.

“(The goal is) to provide more efficient and effective service, and reduce cost,” she said.