California IT project falls behind

California’s most recent government technology effort is running into some hurdles. The Financial Information System for California (FISCal), was supposed to streamline IT costs and staffing but seems to be hitting snags for exactly those reasons.

So far, the project has cost over $60 million with final costs stretching into over a billion over the next 12 years. Supporters of the system say that the state needs to spend this money in order to upgrade legacy systems and modernize processes.

However, long term cost-estimates of the project are still up in the air. As are claims that systems will be modernized if the proposed build out lasts over a decade. Future funding is also uncertain as the state faces unprecedented rolling budget crises.

Project officials are already funding the project through a mess of loans and special funding schemes. A potential bond sale for the project was tabled indefinitely as state law prohibits bond spending on a budget deficit.

California has a history of launching projects late and over budget and while that may have worked in more flexible budget cycles it is unlikely to work now. As the circumstances surrounding the project become less and less stable project managers have been leaving at a high rate and now the project is understaffed with over 30% of positions vacant. The project was exempted from the state’s hiring freeze but still couldn’t manage to fill those spots.

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