State officials have quietly pulled the plug on an effort to replace a complex by Solid Savings” computer system used to track vehicles in Tennessee, after spending more than a decade and at least $40 million on development, reports Chas Sisk.
The Department of Revenue confirmed this month that it has ended an ambitious project called the Title and Registration User’s System of Tennessee, or TRUST, after determining that it would never reach its goal of replacing the state’s aging mainframe-based system.
The project, which would have created a new network linking the offices of all 95 county clerks in Tennessee, is one of several information technology overhauls launched by the state in recent years, only to run aground.
Although largely hidden from public view, IT travails have been a common thread running through recent failures at state agencies, including problems at the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
State officials caution against oversimplifying the situation. They note that many large IT projects undertaken by private corporations fail as well.
But Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has responded by overhauling the state’s approach to IT. Last month, 1,600 IT workers were asked to reapply for their jobs, and the state has dedicated $4 million to retraining this year alone.
Mark Bengel, the state’s chief information officer, said that many state workers in the fast-changing IT sector have let their skills fall behind — to the point where they no longer have the expertise needed to bid out projects or to supervise them once they were awarded.
“IT is changing so fast and becoming so complex,” Bengel said in an interview last week. “Staffing hasn’t kept up.”
The TRUST project did achieve some of its goals. Car owners in most counties can renew their registrations online, and a complicated system that forced county clerks to memorize dozens of codes has been replaced with easier-to-use menus.
But the project hasn’t accomplished its main goal: replacing the state’s 25-year-old mainframe with a modern system of interconnected computers. Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts instead decided to try to keep the mainframe working for a few more years, and then start a new project once the IT sector evolves further.
…The TRUST project spans three administrations, starting at the end of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s, running throughout Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s and ending more than a year into Haslam’s. The project has passed between two sets of government agencies and has gone through a major restart.
Tennessee officials are halting work on a multi-million dollar computer project after years of missed deadlines and design defects, reports The Tennessean.
Department leaders offered little detail on Friday about what went wrong or what will happen next.
“This is a very complex project overall,” said Tricia Reinhard, DHS finance and administration director. “We’re examining every alternative we have, including what we already have in place with VIP.”
The project was launched in 2005 with a $37 million price tag and a four-year contract awarded to Atlanta-based Albion Inc., according to a news release at the time. The company won a competitive bid against four others.
Officials wanted the system to replace the outdated ACCENT software created in 1992, before major changes to the way the department oversees its programs and funding were set in motion.
But the first targeted completion date came and went in 2009.
A state comptroller audit in 2012 said the software was designed and being tested, but that changes were in the works, “due to defects in current designs or new functionality requirements.” The completion date was pushed back to April 1 of this year.
Auditors said that midway through 2011, DHS had spent $18.6 million, with an additional $19.5 million budgeted for the rest of the effort.
The department also budgeted $1.2 million to pay other companies for quality assurance, most of which was spent — bringing the total spent on the program so far to just under $20 million.
In late 2012, department spokeswoman Devin Stone said deadlines were put off “to ensure that the department is building the best possible IT system.”
Reinhard wouldn’t detail what caused delays.
“We intended to have a project end date of 2009 and now it is 2013,” she said.
Democratic state Rep. Sherry Jones has been waiting more than two months for the Department of Children’s Services to tell her how many children have died this year while in state custody or while subject to an abuse investigation, reports The Tennessean.
DCS has come under increasing scrutiny for its inability to perform basic agency functions, such as making payments to foster parents, keeping accurate records and properly documenting social workers’ response times to incidents of child abuse, reports The Tennessean.
“I know these deaths are occurring all across the state because they’re reported in the media,” Jones said. “But the state should be able to tell us how many children have died who were in their care or who they had a report on.
“The information that I asked for should be available every single day through the department. It’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous, that it takes so long to get information from them.”
DCS spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said Monday that the agency continued to work on gathering the information, but she did not specify when it would be available. “We will work to get this to you as soon as possible,” she said.
…A new $37 million computer system intended to track each child who has contact with DCS has been cited as a failure in keeping tabs on information the agency is legally required to keep.
…A March report issued by the Tennessee comptroller’s office criticized department officials, including its chief, Commissioner Kathryn “Kate” O’Day, for going forward with the system in the first place despite being aware it had “significant problems.”
Glitches in the Department of Children’s Services expensive new computer system have resulted in some foster care parents receiving duplicate monthly room and board payments from the state while others weren’t paid at all, reports The Tennesean.
More than $2.5 million in duplicate and missed payments have been identified by DCS already, and officials said last week that they are hurrying to address continued problems with the system.
The software system, which is called the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System, or TFACTS, was the subject of a scathing audit released last week by the state comptroller of the treasury. TFACTS was rolled out in the autumn of 2010 at a price tag of $37 million.
TFACTS was touted as a system that would streamline DCS operations and better track services provided to children in state care. But shortly after the program was installed, foster care parents began experiencing problems with their monthly room and board payments.
….According to the audit, state officials were aware of the problems with TFACTS before it was rolled out statewide in 2010, yet the system was launched anyway.
“Before and during the pilot implementation of TFACTS, steering committee officials knew that the system had significant problems, including deficient system functionality and missing payments,” the audit stated.
According to a letter from Comptroller Justin Wilson to Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes, the bigger issue for state government is how such systems are developed and implemented. In addition to TFACTS, the accounting program Edison has experienced glitches.
State Rep. Glen Casada, who chairs the House Committee on Health and Human Resources, said he was frustrated that problems persisted with TFACTS 18 months after it was implemented.
“It hurts people that can ill afford to be hurt,” Casada said. “From the state government’s perspective, from a legislator’s perspective, we’ve gone through this before.
“I don’t have enough info to say who’s at fault. But somebody is at fault. At the end of the day, the head coach still has to shoulder the blame and give a vision and a way to correct. That’s what we’ll be waiting for from the Department of Children’s Services.”
DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day said the department has taken several steps, including hiring coding experts to study the software, hiring new staff and setting up an internal troubleshooting team for customers.
In one of O’Day’s first steps, she hired Deputy Commissioner Lee Gregory specifically to fix TFACTS.
Knox County’s information technology department Wednesday seized a computer belonging to a Trustee’s Office employee who county officials say may have taken state-administered tests on behalf of his co-workers, reports Mike Donila.
Information about the allegation has been turned over to authorities for a possible criminal investigation.
“We have it (the computer) locked up in our cage where we keep things like that, and I’ll wait for instruction,” said Dick Moran, head of the county’s IT department.
Moran said Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols called him Wednesday and asked him to secure a specific Dell desktop computer inside the Trustee’s Office. He said he’ll meet with Nichols today to find out what he wants done with it.
Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith said he initially received a tip that an employee was taking a test for other workers in the office. He also said he was told that someone in the office either destroyed computer files or attempted to cover up evidence of the activity.
He said he got the information “from a credible source — someone who has no grudges or political aspirations, whatsoever.”
The state Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole has a new supervisory system in which criminal offenders are allowed to make a monthly call to a computerized telephone menu instead of dealing directly with a parole officer, reports The Tennessean.
It’s intended to alleviate crushing caseloads that have hurt the agency’s ability to supervise criminals
The agency says the system is designed for offenders deemed a low risk and who have consistently met their obligations to the state. Nine percent of the offenders on this phone-in system in Davidson County — 42 out of 479 offenders — are murderers, according to June data obtained by The Tennessean.
An additional five offenders were convicted of attempted murder, and 51 were convicted of robbery.
The Board of Probation and Parole declined multiple requests to interview staff and Chairman Charles Traughber about the Interactive Offender Tracking.
As an example of an offender in the program, the newspaper cites Anthony Ussery, 30.
He was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a man in a Nashville Kroger parking lot, beating an ex-girlfriend and possessing cocaine. And, when released on parole, he was arrested at least six times in his first 2½ years of supervision
Foster-care agencies, as well as parents, owed millions The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services owes foster-care agencies and other contractors at least $2.5 million in back payments, largely due to problems with the department’s expensive new computer system, according to the Tennessean.
Last year, DCS launched the new system, called the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System, or TFACTS, and immediately began experiencing problems accurately paying foster-care parents on time. For some parents, missed payments became such a concern that they considered returning their foster children to the state.
But TFACTS also has taken its toll on third-party providers that contract with DCS to place children in foster homes and provide services to special-needs youths.
Issues with TFACTS, which cost $37 million to install, have caught the attention of the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and state lawmakers, who say they are concerned that late payments continue to be a problem one year after the system was put in place.
“I’m surprised that (DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day), coming from a background of working for a provider, has not addressed this issue after more than five months in office,” said Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A computer glitch in a new $37 million computer system installed at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has led hundreds of foster-care parents to miss monthly room and board payments from the state.
A call log shows that foster-care and adoptive parents for more than 1,200 children across the state either received their payments late or the money never arrived last fall.
Back payments for foster care, adoption assistance and state-subsidized guardianship totaled nearly $600,000 between September 2010 and April, according to the call logs.
DCS spokesman Rob Johnson told The Tennessean that the agency is spending an additional $300,000 for help managing the financial-accounting component of the software.
DCS attributed payment problems to migrating data stored on multiple software systems to a single new system, called the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System