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State Computer Services in Disarray, Report Says : Government: Legislative analyst says a $44-million DMV snafu shows duplication and waste. Technology office is blamed for problems in several other agencies.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the heels of a $44-million computer snafu at the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the legislative analyst warned Tuesday that a lack of adequate management controls over state computer systems is producing duplication and waste that undermines the state’s $1-billion-a-year computer investment.

The report says that the $44 million for a Department of Motor Vehicles computer operation that has no hope of working is only one example of a system operating without proper controls.

It warned of problem projects in the Department of Social Services, Department of Corrections, State Board of Equalization and Stephen P. Teale Data Center, a hub of high-tech information processing for the state.

The report charged that the Office of Information Technology “bears significant responsibility for these problems” and urged the Legislature to shift its responsibilities to a new entity that would report directly to the governor.

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The state lacks a statewide plan for information technology and has no centralized, effective leadership to guide the state’s growing reliance on computers, the report said.

California has spent billions of dollars on an array of separate state government computer operations, many of which cannot communicate with each other. Also, some agencies independently collect duplicative data, while others cannot convert the data into useful information, said the legislative analyst, the Legislature’s chief budget adviser.

The net effect is an expenditure of $1 billion a year for information technology that is not producing an optimum return on the investment and in many cases is “not even producing a reasonably good return,” the report said.

The analyst singled out for criticism the little-known state Office of Information Technology, part of the Department of Finance. For 11 years, the office has been charged with overseeing design, development and implementation of computer operations.

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Gov. Pete Wilson’s office declined to comment on the report, referring reporters to the Finance Department. Department spokesman H.D. Palmer defended the office.

He said the state’s computer operations had received favorable recognition nationally and accused the legislative analyst of failing to recognize that computer needs of state agencies vary widely and defy a “cookie cutter-type” uniformity.

The Office of Information Technology, Palmer said, seeks to provide guidance to state agencies so they can establish their own strategies without dictatorial interference.

But the legislative analyst said the office often gets bogged down in narrow procedural issues.

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Assemblywoman Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey) said she intends to propose a moratorium on all major computer purchases until a statewide plan is developed.

“The DMV failure is (the) $44-million tip of a multibillion iceberg,” Bowen said.


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