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As we recently noted, California’s Department of Consumer Affairs was implementing a computer system pegged at $27 million. Problems with the system boosted the cost to $77 million, but that still didn’t get it done. Consumer Affairs bosses want another $17.5 million, bring the cost to $96 million, more than three times the original estimate. Now Jon Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee shows how this is merely a drop in the waste bucket.
“The state has spent about $900 million on three stalled or terminated IT projects in the last few years,” Ortiz writes. These include: a failed overhaul of the state payroll system, a DMV project for licensed and registration, and “a statewide court system that burned through a half-billion dollars before it was shut down.” Adds Ortiz, “future failures could be even more costly,” noting a combined budget of $3.5 billion for the “dozen most expensive projects” in the pipeline, according to the state’s Department of Technology. Will these projects cost three times that estimate, bringing the tab to some $10 billion? It is certainly possible to guess.
The problem is not with technology itself but government. As Consumer Affairs boss Awet Kidate told Jon Ortiz, his department “failed miserably at change management.” But they get the money anyway. So did the bosses at Caltrans, who managed construction of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It cost $5 billion more than the original estimate, came in ten years late, and remains riddled with safety issues. Besides defective welds, cracked rods and such, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “access to the top and midlevel sections of the tower are next to impossible for maintenance work after the elevator failed after just a few uses.” In similar style, the Golden State fails miserably at management of technology projects.