Texas auditors urge IT systems consolidation

The Texas State Auditor's Office today issued a report citing information resources and technology management as a major risk area for the state and recommended that Texas create a plan to consolidate the state's IT projects.

"Texas spends approximately $1.8 billion a year on technology and, like most governments, has not realized a return on investment comparable to that of private industry," according to the report, Major Areas of Risk Facing Texas State Government. "Texas is at a disadvantage in realizing technology savings and efficiencies because of large projects, inadequate skills, poor contracting practices and co-location rather than consolidation of IT functions and services," the report said.

Texas CIO Carolyn Purcell said she had received the report only today and had not had time to review all its findings or the sources of its information. "I think the general observations are fine," she said. "These are things that are commonly said and things we are working" to resolve. She added that she had requested backup documentation from the State Auditor's Office about specific information in the report.

The auditors found that 48 large projects reviewed by the state's Quality Assurance Team had delivery delays averaging 14 months and total cost overruns of more than $352 million.

The report singled out the state's implementation of PeopleSoft Inc.'s human resources and financial systems software as "the most vivid example of Texas' problems in delivering technology" because of its potential for duplication of services. The report warned that Texas could face a loss due to duplication of effort of more than $100 million as a result of the PeopleSoft project.

The auditors also criticized the state's lack of reliable systems security, saying, "state computer systems are too often vulnerable to disruptions, data tampering, fraud and inappropriate disclosure. ? Of 63 vulnerability assessments performed in both large and small agencies, only 27 percent indicated that system protections were adequate."

CIOs equal in authority to their counterparts in the finance and operations fields belong in state administration, according to the auditors, to ensure strategic alignment of technology. Among the report's recommendations were:

  • Centralize IT project management

  • Adopt a performance-based contracting standard

  • Expand security testing

  • Improve IT employees' skills.

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