Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Deeds blames McDonnell for failure of VITA/NG agreement

AuditCreigh Deeds blames Bob McDonnell for approving a poor contract between NG (Northrop-Grumman) and VITA (Virginia Information Technology Agency). The contract partnership is costing Virginians $2.3 billion.

“Bob McDonnell’s office knew of problems in the contract, calls his record into question.”

Tuesday the JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission) reported on their examination of VITA. The agreement between NG and VITA was constructed more like a partnership with both VITA and NG sharing responsibilities. Deeds blasted McDonnell for not securing a contract that would protect Virginia’s agencies. This is the responsibility of an attorney general.

Governor Tim Kaine released a statement on the findings Tuesday:

“I’m pleased that JLARC’s review acknowledges the current governance structure for the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) is neither workable nor advisable. JLARC’s conclusion that VITA’s Chief Information Officer should report directly to the Executive Office for the services delivered to state agencies addresses the key concern I have repeatedly raised regarding accountability around Virginia’s IT infrastructure.”

Governor Kaine went on to say he expects VITA and NG to “redouble their efforts in ensuring prudent and appropriate stewardship, especially as it relates to procurement and use of IT infrastructure and services.”

The report pointed out procurement delays, data security issues, an inadequate help desk, lack of knowledge of federal security standards and inadequate contractual penalties for poor performance by NG

NG failed to meet its contractual obligation by completing the transformation by July 2009. According to the agreement this was sufficient cause to divorce from the partnership. The report stated that the “largest single reason for delay appears to be inadequate planning by NG.” It also criticized NG’s lack of knowledge about the agencies. The transformation agreement has been extended to June 2010.

Gartner Inc., a well-respected information technology advisory group warned of what they called “the partnership trap” saying that “even in the best relationships, potential for conflict between vendor’s profit motive and customer’s needs will arise.”

Hewlett Packard reviewed NG’s project management documentation. They found it “awkward” – a patchwork that led to improvisation. They called the transformation schedule “almost incomprehensible.”

NG determines the needs of the agencies when the rolls should be the reverse – “the current approach to the service provision needs to change.”

The report questioned if claimed savings to the State are real – “no savings appear likely from new IT services during the original 10-year term.”

Governor’s authority over agencies is hindered by the lack of authority over VITA according to state law – “oversight & operation of IT should be treated as an executive function like all other central services.” The CIO has no obligation to submit contract modifications to the governor or the general assembly.

The ITIB (Information Technology Investment Board) lacks IT knowledge and finds over-sight burdensome. It should be abolished and replaced with an Information Technology Investment Council composed of cabinet secretaries to  act as advisers. The CIO should have complete authority over IT services said the report.

VITA CIO, George Coulter in a letter to JLARC director, Philip Leone dated Tuesday agreed with the briefing saying “I believe the briefing accurately captures the history, progress and challenges of the modernization of Virginia’s IT infrastructure.”

VP and General Manager Civil Systems Division, Tom Shelman in a letter dated Monday defended NG. Shelman called the report an ” unbalanced view of the shared responsibilities and performance.” Shelman claims there are no models to compare Virginia’s IT undertaking to and that “nothing on the scale of this project exists.”

NG and VITA have fought over who is at fault but the report points to language in the contract that affirmed NG received “sufficient access” and had performed “sufficient due diligence” prior to signing the agreement.

Termination of the partnership would cost Virginia dearly. There are no funds to switch to another provider or return IT services in-house. VITA has permanently lost most of its knowledgeable IT personnel. NG took most of them and has since reorganized.

In December the JLARC will present its recommendations for changes in organization and oversight of the VITA and NG project. NG’s Shelman says he’ll hold his rebuttal until then.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2009, Finance, State Politics

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