Letter: Revenue secretary downplays significant problem

As a taxpayer and an information technology professional, I am becoming more and more concerned about the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s string of problems related, in their words, to software. In the last three months, we taxpayers have had refund delays due to software testing issues, and now the LDR has had trouble with providing refunds to individuals, a “snafu,” as Tim Barfield noted. He goes so far as to say, “We couldn’t really test because we couldn’t send out refunds to bank accounts.”

Allow me to loosely translate what this means, having spent the better part of a quarter-century in large-scale software implementations. “We couldn’t really test” means “We ran out of time” or “We didn’t want to test it” or “These people were within our margin of error, e.g., we don’t really care if they’re right or not.”

As someone who is paying the LDR to implement and appropriately test and use these systems, it would be nice to know what else is just a “programming snafu.”

Earlier this year, the LDR refused to answer questions people (myself included) had about their refunds. The website never updated, the people who did answer the phone had no answers or were rude and dismissive. This is, if you could reach someone through the multilevel option tree on their phones, and had enough vacation or sick time saved up to wait on hold. No answers until Feb. 22, when Barfield noted, “The first batch of tax returns is held a bit longer for system testing.”

Testing a fraud system with live data? Holding up taxpayer money to finish your testing?

Looking back, the LDR had the same problem last year.

If my clients demonstrated such irresponsibility with regard to data testing or acknowledged they simply didn’t want to test certain financial data, they would be in serious trouble. Companies who accept that software testing is something that can wait until the last minute, be done haphazardly (or not at all) or test against live data typically have problems with systems and data management in general.

A snafu, in our world, is when your desktop colors aren’t what you want, not when thousands of people receive the wrong paperwork, or thousands of others are underserved. Someone who defines a malfunction of a system to the extent of the LDR’s issues as a snafu would likely consider the loss or theft of data as a minor nuisance, or the miscalculation of a return just something that happens.

Bradley Artigue

IT consultant

Baton Rouge