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California drops computer overhaul after spending $135 million

February 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A multi-million-dollar overhaul of the California DMV computer system is being canceled, with the job only half done. Officials say they were making very little progress.

The $200-million effort to overhaul DMV's 40-year-old computer system that processes driver's licenses and vehicle registrations has been halted.

After seven years and $135 million in taxpayer money, only the driver's license portion is close to getting done.

"We thought it was a time to bring the project to an end because they weren't going to be able to get to an agreement on how to finish it out," said Secretary of California Technology Carlos Ramos.

The stalled DMV project is the latest in a string of high profile technology blunders that have plagued state government.

Last week, State Controller John Chiang fired the contractor charged with the $400 million upgrade to the state's payroll system because it's years behind schedule, triple the cost and it doesn't work.

And last year after doling out half-a-billion dollars, the courts pulled the plug on the effort to electronically connect every courthouse in the state when the costs ballooned to $2 billion.

"It's ironic that California, being the birthplace of the high-tech industry, can't seem to get its act together," said Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

But the state's technology chief says the state does have successes. California is the first state to have a mobile apps store.

An online voter registration system kicked off in the fall.

And family and friends can make reservations online to visit an inmate.

Carlos Ramos admits, though, the state may be too big for certain projects.

"Technology projects in and of themselves can be pretty complex undertakings," said Ramos. "But when you take on something of the scope and scale of California, they're inherently risky."

State department heads don't make projects easy either.

"What we've heard from some of the people in the private sector is that the state will ask for something but then they'll change their minds later, or they're not clear as to what they really want," said Coupal.

The state will be evaluating what to do next in the DMV and court projects. Controller Chiang has said he'll sue the payroll contractor to get at least some of the taxpayers money back.


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