The details on the mess at the Department of Information Services | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The details on the mess at the Department of Information Services

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 9:47 AM

CLAIRE BAILEY: Billing problems recurred during her leadership of the Department of Information Systems.
  • CLAIRE BAILEY: Billing problems recurred during her leadership of the Department of Information Systems.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Claudia Lauer reported this morning (subscription required) on a special audit of the Department of Information Systems by the Department of Finance and Administration.

It's a tale of woe. The audit found overcharges of more than $7 million and underbilling of more than $17 million in 2013, a recurrence of a problem that cost the state millions in 2006. Lesser problems — but more personally egregious because they seem to go beyond competence to  greed — concern excessive travel reimbursements.

This department had recently been targeted for reorganization and a dramatic reduction in staff. Director Claire Bailey's abrupt recent departure was put down to health reasons, but it's hard not to believe ill health of the agency was also a factor. It's been a problem since its creation.

There's some thinking that state departments can handle their own computer needs rather than rely on a vast state bureaucracy. Others are spoiling to put state schools under a  state-run broadband umbrella, which — should that happen — likely would function apart from DIS. (I like the chances of this happening given the Walton billions are behind the idea; though telcom companies are on the other side and the new governor's chief of staff, Michael Lamoureux, has done legal work for a telecom heavily invested, with government help, in broadband delivery.)

Anyway, if you'd like to read all the nitty gritty of the DF&A audit:

The rate accounting is pretty technical.  Improper charges for upgraded hotel rooms and airplane seats are easier to understand. Also Bailey's failure to disclose trips to meetings paid for by agency vendors. Also huge car expenses for personal autos, in excess of what state cars would have cost. Also multiple failures to follow proper contracting procedures.

Conclusion: The agency fell short in fund balance management, rate setting, contracting, travel and cost accounting.

Did they do anything right?

Also: Would it be impertinent to ask how Gov. Mike Beebe, reputed to be the wizard of state government, allowed this boil on the rear of government to fester for eight years?

The report that Herschel Cleveland, the interim director of the agency, believes he might have a role under the incoming Hutchinson administration inspires skepticism. A former Democratic House speaker will be given the reins of an agency with so many problems, which occurred while he held a top-ranking position? 

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