Texas auditor: Many state IT projects wracked by cost, time overruns

As a group, the 15 projects examined by Texas' state auditor took about 10 years longer than planned

More than two-thirds of 15 major IT projects completed by Texas government entities in recent years took longer than anticipated and went over budget, according to a report by State Auditor John Keel.

The report, which was released in late July, looked at 15 projects that started on or after Sept. 1, 2007. Sixty-seven percent experienced time overruns and 73 percent cost more than anticipated, according to the report.

A series of underlying factors was behind the problems, including failure of agencies to comply with state guidelines for IT project oversight; poor planning; expansion in the scope of projects after they were begun; and slow performance on the part of contracted consultants.

One project that created an Oracle E-Business Suite-based system for the Parks and Wildlife Department saw its budget jump from US$1.6 million to nearly $5 million, and it took 38 months to be completed instead of the planned 12 months, according to a chart included in the audit.

An "application remediation" project for the Department of Aging and Disability Services cost $7.7 million, up from an original budget of $5.5 million, but the timeline more than doubled, rising to 36 months from about 14 months.

While some individual projects ended up costing less money than first predicted, as a group they racked up roughly an additional $11.7 million in costs and took nearly 10 years longer than expected, according to the chart.

Those IT projects aren't the only troubled ones Texas officials have had.

Particularly serious delays and extra expenses have been suffered by ReHabWorks, a project that will create a case management system for the state Division for Blind Services and Division for Rehabilitation Services, according to another recent report by Keel's office.

That effort was originally budgeted at $2.4 million and had an initial completion date of August 2007.

But ReHabWorks' total cost is now expected to be $18.3 million, with a goal of full implementation by April 2013, according to Keel's office.

Officials had told lawmakers that ReHabWorks was finished as of August 2010, but that wasn't actually the case, the audit adds.

While the system was technically able to process a new case as of that time, it wasn't able to serve existing clients, nor did it contain the historical data records needed to send required reports, according to the audit.

In addition, officials significantly "underreported" how much the system would cost to a pair of oversight bodies, the Legislative Budget Board and the state Quality Assurance team, it states. For example, it didn't include $10.9 million "in indirect costs" associated with the hours IT personnel and other state workers spent on the project.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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