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Consuming More Taxpayer Dollars

Monday March 16th, 2015   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:03am PDT   •  

CA_St_Capitol_200As consumers know, modern computers are incredibly reliable machines that work right out of the box, simplify many tasks, and save consumers money. In the hands of government employees, however, computers often fail to work, make life more complicated, and cost taxpayers much more money than advertised.

As Jon Ortiz notes in the Sacramento Bee, California’s Department of Consumer Affairs has been implementing a BreEZe computer system that was supposed to cost $27 million. The system, however, “spit out unreliable data,” and problems like that boosted the budget to $77 million. So far the department has spent $37 million, but officials describe the system as “a mess.” Consumer Affairs boss Awet Kidate conceded that “the department failed miserably at change management.” But he still wants another $17.5 million for the department that failed miserably. That will bring the final cost to $96 million, more than three times the original estimate.

Ortiz also outlined similar problems with IT systems in the state Employment Development Department, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the payroll system for the University of California. As a consultant told Ortiz, these problems arise because of the government’s antipathy to honest assessment. On the assessment theme, consider the following development.

As we previously noted, Proposition 63 raised $13.2 billion but California’s Little Hoover Commission, a state watchdog, reported that the state cannot even document whether or not the $13.2 billion improved Californians’ lives. Not to worry, because the measure is providing relief for tens of thousands of Californians and decreasing homelessness, hospitalizations, and arrests among the mentally ill. That is the glowing assessment of, yes, former Senate boss Darrell Steinberg. He not only wrote Proposition 63 but recently became director of policy and advocacy for the UC Davis Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, which Proposition 63 funds to the tune of $7.5 million.

Steinberg, a lawyer, will be a visiting professor at Davis’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. That will enable him immediately to lobby the Legislature on behalf of the Center. For ruling-class high-rollers, it’s always a wonderful world.

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March 2015