CAO’s expensive software plan

By From page A5 | April 19, 2013


Isn’t it strange that when the county has been having budget problems and only had a surplus of $5 million a year ago, it magically finds $5.6 million to spend on new financial software? The county in this alleged time of financial distress also seems to create lavishly compensated positions for its top bureaucrats, for which several have little qualifications or experience, and attempts to give them raises, ie., Kim Kerr. The CAO lately seems to spend taxpayer money like water.

At the March 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, CAO Terri Daly stated that this new ERP software would save the county money by eliminating finance staff, yet at that same meeting she hired another six-figure assistant director of finance. Joe Harn spoke up that the newly created financial position would create parity problems with other top financial employees. It seems as if Daly speaks out of both sides of her mouth as her fiefdom grows daily with new six-figure bureaucrats who have limited accountability and even more limited and/or questionable credentials and experience.

Anyone who has had experience with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system implementation and change over from older computers systems knows that you typically end up spending three-to-four times as much money in the end to get everything working properly, if it ever works at all. The failure rate for these systems is sky high and they are quietly swept under the rug. The salespeople for these corporations are masters at getting the nozzle in the tank by selling the dream to bureaucrats by promising them effortless “dashboard” financial systems that any third grader can understand. Once they’ve got you locked into their system (nozzle in the tank), then the real expense kicks in. So where is the additional $15 million going to come from? Is this more of the short-range planning that we can expect from our CAO? Did she know that Tyler has been sued by other California counties such as Ventura for its financial ERP software that didn’t work? Marin County’s ERP system implementation started in 2004 never worked and the $30 million spent was wasted. I would hazard to say that our CAO and her staff have never had any real experience with such an ERP system implementation, since they came from little Amador County and are winging it by placing their trust in a single source vendor.

The crudely drawn white board documents on the wall at the Board of Supervisors meeting to justify this huge expenditure looked like a blown-up, hand-drawn cocktail napkin note. Typically you would do a lot more studies before making such a huge expenditure and one has to wonder if this was the proper time for this expenditure at all in light of the recent county budget problems. Missing from the CAO’s presentation was the decision matrix on how the CAO selected the vendors or other companies responding to the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP) and their associated bids. Where’s the transparency? It just seems like in light of all the county’s budgetary problems, layoffs, cutbacks and downsizing this was not the proper time for this massive expenditure. Back in the recession of the 1990’s, the Surveyor’s Office received several bids for a new spatial Geographical Information System (GIS) and instead chose to invest a little over $100,000 on a computer and software and built up over time what today is a multi-million dollar system by using its own staff, as the map digitization layering and database development was the true labor intensive cost factor. This also took a lot of risk out of that new system, because the system was developed over time and the county didn’t outsource the work. The surveyor did not go out and blow millions on a “turnkey” system full of promises that potentially would backfire. The current CAO seems to want to blow the county’s financial wad as if she’s going for broke.


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