Despite previous reporting, Rocky failed to connect "flawed" state computer systems to Owens administration

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In reporting August 14 on a "flawed computer system for vehicle registrations that already has cost taxpayers nearly $11 million," a Rocky Mountain News article by Lynn Bartels did not mention that the program was a venture of former Republican Gov. Bill Owens. The News had pointed out that fact in two previous articles, noting that the registration system is "the fifth computer system dating to the Owens administration to have major problems."

An August 14 Rocky Mountain News article by Lynn Bartels about a "flawed computer system for vehicle registrations that already has cost taxpayers nearly $11 million" omitted the fact that the system dated to the administration of former Republican Gov. Bill Owens -- as News reporter Ann Imse pointed out in a May 16 article. Furthermore, while the August 14 article listed "[t]he state's other flawed [computer] systems," it failed to point out -- as an April 3 News article did -- that the registration system, known as the Colorado State Titling and Registration System (CSTARS), is "the fifth computer system dating to the Owens administration to have major problems."

According to the August 14 article, if the state has to "scrap" the CSTARS system and "start over nearly from scratch -- rather than just making changes to the new system -- it could cost taxpayers an additional $10 million to $15 million." The article further reported:

Much of the information about the state's troubled computer projects already has been made public.

But Monday's meeting offered members of the House and Senate finance committees -- in a rare summer gathering -- a chance to quiz officials on the situation.

[...]

The committee heard from Gov. Bill Ritter's new technology wizard, Mike Locatis, who has been given unprecedented authority to oversee the state's computer systems. The panel also heard from Roxanne Huber, the director of the Department of Revenue, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division.

Locatis outlined the efforts he has undertaken since Ritter took over in January from Gov. Bill Owens.

As for the Colorado State Titling and Registration System, or CSTARS, Huber said the state is still assessing how to proceed. She said her department and the attorney general are talking to the vendor, Avanade, a subsidiary of Accenture, a company that worked on two other troubled state computer projects.

Company officials were unavailable for comment.

Huber put CSTARS on hold in April. Among its problems: It could not calcuate fees, which then had to be done manually; and the work that a motor vehicle clerk could do on one screen in the current system now needed four or five screens.

The News also quoted state Rep. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) as saying, "I suspect the failure [of the CSTARS system] rests on the shoulder of the legislature," and listed state government's four other "flawed systems":

  • CBMS: Colorado Benefits Management System, developed by EDS at a cost of $223 million. It fouled up welfare benefits and left recipients without critical cash. The federal government demanded an $11 million sanction for money that CBMS incorrectly paid out in food stamps.
  • Genesis: Developed by Accenture under a $40.8 million contract with the state Department of Labor to track unemployment insurance. The system had a 20 percent error rate, and the two sides agreed to cancel the contract. Colorado paid Accenture $27 million.
  • SCORE: Statewide Colorado Registration and Election system, developed by Accenture under a $10.5 million contract. When Accenture missed a federal deadline for completion of the new statewide voter registration database, the secretary of state canceled the contract.
  • ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning system was developed by SAP at a cost of $38 million to track Colorado Department of Transportation finances, personnel and project management. About 1,000 employees had errors in their payroll checks last winter. Alterations to the system are ongoing.

However, nowhere did the August 14 article mention, as the News had on previous occasions, that the "flawed" computer systems dated to the administration of Owens, who left office in January after serving two four-year terms.

As the News reported on May 16, "CSTARS is Colorado's fifth problem computer contract. All five are ventures dating to the administration of former Gov. Bill Owens." The article further reported, "The five deals total $325 million, with CSTARS contracted at $10.3 million. Other new systems have failed to pay road workers and welfare recipients accurately and have failed to track unemployment benefits and voter registration."

Similarly, the April 3 article, also by Imse, reported, "Colorado pulled the plug Monday on its new computer for licensing motor vehicles -- the fifth computer system dating to the Owens administration to have major problems":

Gov. Bill Ritter's administration halted use of the CSTARS system after reports of four cases in which police officers checking license plates were informed, incorrectly, that the registration was for a different car.

[...]

"We have substantial problems with our computer infrastructure," said Evan Dreyer, Ritter's spokesman.

"CSTARS is one of at least five troubled computer systems the Ritter administration inherited," Dreyer said.

He cited four others, which failed to pay road workers and welfare recipients accurately and failed to track unemployment benefits and voter registration.

Total value of the problem computer contracts: $317 million.

Dreyer said Ritter had heard of this issue during the campaign and hired chief information officer Mike Locatis to fix it.

"We share the frustrations around these failed computer systems and are working hard to solve these problems," Dreyer said. Locatis is evaluating all of the state's computer systems, he said.

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