Auditor scolds state on state computer disasters

does not computeA longtime theme of has been the numerous computer disasters of the California government, in juxtaposition to the computer and Internet revolutions that have taken place in the state.

State Auditor Elaine M. Howle just released a comprehensive report scolding government officials for the many computer glitches over the decades costing in some cases tens of millions of dollars. It highlighted the oversight that’s supposed to be done by the California Department of Technology:

“IT project oversight continues to be a high-risk issue, in part, because of the needed improvements in CalTech’s oversight discussed below and because of the negative impact to the state’s fiscal health when these IT projects fail. For example, between 1994 and 2013, the state terminated or suspended seven IT projects after spending almost $1 billion.”

That’s a lot of money that could have gone to schools, roads, health care or tax cuts.

Despite such failures, as of last month, California “had 45 IT projects under development that were under CalTech’s oversight, with a reported cost of more than $4 billion.”

The main problem is CalTech just doesn’t suspend dubious projects:

“Despite clear statutory authority to curtail troubled state IT projects, CalTech faces challenges in pursuing effective project oversight. One challenge is that CalTech lacks guidance in two critical situations: when CalTech management should suspend or terminate a project and when its independent project oversight (IPO) analysts should escalate concerns to CalTech management. In addition, CalTech does not formally set expectations for its oversight authority with sponsoring agencies — the state agencies that are implementing IT projects. This lack of communication may contribute to an environment wherein sponsoring agencies view CalTech as a service provider whose oversight they do not have to rigorously follow.”

The auditor recommended that, by Dec. 2015, CalTech develop “criteria” to properly intervene and, if necessary, end bad projects, specificially:

  • “When and how IPO analysts should recommend corrective action and escalate issues to CalTech’s management.
  • “What conditions could trigger CalTech to consider suspending or terminating an IT project.”

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles,, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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