Florida shelves BearingPoint financial modernization project

The Florida Financial Services Department has suspended indefinitely an enterprise financial management system under development by BearingPoint Inc., which came under fire for mismanagement by the state. Department officials allege the project is over budget and lacks a clear strategy.

Called Project Aspire, the initiative is an outgrowth of an effort to develop enterprisewide management information systems for functions that are an essential part of business operations, such as accounting, human resources and state purchasing.

"We need to stop spending the people's tax dollars until we have a clear strategy in place to make the project a success," said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in a statement issued late last week. BearingPoint declined to comment on the CFO's decision.

But published reports said BearingPoint stopped working on the project in December 2006.

Florida spent $89 million of $100 million originally allotted for the project, which was awarded under the administration of Gov. Jeb Bush and scheduled for completion in February 2006.

Sink, who is a member of Gov. Charlie Crist's administration, hired Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., in February 2007 to provide an independent assessment of the project and make recommendations. Gartner found critical weaknesses in how the state managed the project.

"The State of Florida has not adhered to accepted industry best practices with respect to funding, planning and implementing Aspire," Gartner wrote. Sink decided to suspend the project until the state can establish the high-level oversight that such a project requires.

BearingPoint believes the project has suffered because the state changed the requirements several times. Just before Crist took office, BearingPoint Executive Vice President Cathy Pomanti wrote a letter to officials of both administrations urging them to continue the project despite schedule delays and cost increases, citing those shifting expectations.

"The reality is that BearingPoint has built the Aspire financial system to three separate designs, all at the direction of the state. This has extended the timeframe for completion and has resulted in increased costs," Pomanti wrote.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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