CA data does not compute

CA data does not compute

HAL 9000 computerCalifornia remains the global epicenter of computers and the Internet. Then why do so many of its state-government systems not compute?

The latest critique comes in a new report, “Data Reliability,” by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle. Subtitle: “State Agencies’ Computer-Generated Data Varied in Their Completeness and Accuracy.” Some key sections:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), whose standards we follow, requires us to assess and report on the reliability of computer-processed information that we use to support our audit findings, conclusions, and recommendations….

Three assessemnts were made: “sufficiently reliable,” “not sufficiently reliable” and “undetermined reliability”:

In performing 53 data reliability assessments for State systems, we determined for the purposes of the audits that the data were sufficiently reliable in 19 assessments….

For 17 data reliability assessments, we concluded that the data were not sufficiently reliable….

For 17 data reliability assessments, we concluded that the data had undetermined reliability. 

So 36 percent were “sufficiently reliable.” And 64 percent were not.

Would the private sector be allowed to get away with that? If a business’ tax returns to the IRS were only 36 percent “sufficiently reliable,” the chief managers would end up in a federal klink. More:

For example, data from two California State University (CSU) systems were of undetermined reliability. We did not perform accuracy and completeness testing for CSU’s Common Financial System because the system contains summary-level data and we determined that it would not be cost-effective to trace this summary-level data back to the individual transactions that support the total. Likewise, we could not assess data reliability for CSU’s Common Management System by tracing to and from supporting documents because the system is primarily paperless. Alternatively, following GAO guidelines, we could have reviewed the adequacy of selected system controls to determine whether data were entered reliably. However, because it was cost prohibitive, we did not conduct these reviews.

So what we have here is basic government incompetence. The state general fund gets $110 billion of our tax dollars, but its data systems are basically unreliable. We have no idea how the money in government is spent, nor how effective it is at what it’s advertised to do.



Tags assigned to this article:
GAOJohn Seilerstate auditorElaine M. Howle

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