Marin seeks bids on new computer system [The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.]
(Marin Independent Journal (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 31--By Nels Johnson
Marin Independent Journal
Civic Center officials, taking what a top executive called a "belt and suspenders" approach, moved ahead in the search for a new computer system Tuesday, asking vendors to scope out the county's needs.
The Board of Supervisors approved a detailed "request for proposals" describing issues that must be accommodated in a new fiscal software system.
The request document asks vendors to "propose solutions for software and implementation services that encompass finance, budgeting, human resources and payroll functions," with bids due in December and a finalist selected next May.
With the county's $30 million computer debacle providing painful memories of recent blunders, officials have spent $600,000 on consultants, and authorized another $350,000, to analyze business processes and system requirements, as well as help select a new system.
The board Tuesday approved hiring three senior accountants on a "fixed term" of up to three years, at a total cost of about $400,000 a year, to get trained and fill in for top finance staffers who will be devoted to implementing the computer project.
"We're all in agreement we need to do this right," County Administrator Matthew Hymel said. "Given the painful experience of the last implementation, we're taking a belt and suspenders approach."
A county staff "administrative technologies of Marin" team called ATOM, drawing key employees from across county departments, has reviewed issues, analyzed strategy, advised and otherwise prepared for selection of the new system for two years. Working with consultants Plante & Moran, officials identified more than 1,020 issues, including 304 dealing with processes and policies, and 513 with technology. An independent advisory group has been part of the process.
Hymel said the request for proposals resulted following detailed review of what went wrong last time, in addition to study from consultants, employee users and outside experts. The document will enable vendors big and small to bid.
Supervisors, the targets of fierce criticism after the fiasco in which a computer system that never worked right will be scrapped just several years after its installation, were pleased with the cautious deliberation evident in the new program.
Supervisor Susan Adams called the level of analysis "a real change from the last time," and Supervisor Kate Sears issued congratulations. "I really want to applaud you ... on a well-thought out process," Sears told staffers including Tim Flanagan, enterprise systems manager for the county's Department of Information Services and Technology.
Consultant Adam Rujan of Plante & Moran has estimated eventual costs at $13 million to $16 million for software, vendor work and consultants, and Flanagan noted costs will be refined after vendors pitch proposals. The county has set aside about $6.8 million for system replacement, and has other reserve funds it could dip into. Annual operating costs have been estimated at about $1.25 million, or half of what the current SAP system costs.
After spending more than $30 million, the county said a malfunctioning system cost too much to maintain and decided to scrap it. The county board sued, accusing vendors of bribery, fraud and racketeering, with county lawyers claiming evidence of conspiracy involving consultants as well as a county auditor.
"Deloitte Consulting defrauded the county, botched the implementation of the SAP system, and used bribery to, among other things, conceal its incompetence," Assistant County Counsel Jack Govi asserted at the time.
Supervisors hired a New York law firm and spent $5 million on the litigation before encountering several setbacks in court and settling the case for just $3.9 million. The legal capitulation included a controversial gag order preventing all parties from talking about the matter.
Contact Nels Johnson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/nelsjohnsonnews
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