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State Auditor: Streamlining state payroll system is a priority

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Referencing a legislative auditor’s report that said the state spent millions by letting consultants embed themselves into critical payroll functions, State Auditor J.B. McCuskey said agencies have worked to streamline the process.

McCuskey said his office, the governor’s and treasurer’s offices, along with the the Enterprise Resource Project Board, have made streamlining the state’s payroll system a priority.

Earlier this week, the legislative auditor’s office reported to the Post Audits Subcommittee that the state has paid more than $24 million, averaging almost $300,000 per month, to Information Services Group Inc. since May 2010 for consultant services on a replacement for the West Virginia Financial Information Management System and integration with other state computer systems.

McCuskey, who was elected last November, said before he started, he hired a special assistant process management expert with wvOASIS as his first project.

“When I started in mid-January, he had already provided me with a list of things that he thought needed to be worked on in OASIS and ways to make that project go more quickly and efficiently,” McCuskey said. “So what ended up happening was in the first two weeks, we implemented basically all the recommendations in the legislative auditor’s report.”

The report said ISG’s work was divided into eight phases and was in its final phase. One phase was to train state employees to eventually take over functions of the system.

There is always some measure of consultants on a project because every giant computer system is run by people who created it in some way. But the day-to-day operations will be transferred over completely and make sure it goes properly,” McCuskey said.

McCuskey said the goal is for the subcontractor to be finished in two years. He said the goal is to have the July 1 end date for the subcontractors to work themselves out of a job.

“If you’re implementing a system, you can’t optimize it. OASIS itself has a lot of ways that we can streamline and make it less expensive,” he said. “You can’t maximize the use of a system when you can’t understand how to implement it. The end of the implementation is the most important because it means the beginning of optimization.”

He said through the working of contracts, the state has saved easily $1.5 million a year.

“We made it a No. 1 priority and are successful in doing so,” McCuskey said. “There are a ton of good people over there. It took a little bit of re-prioritization and really making it a priority made them understand that what they’re doing Is important.”

He said employees know how to do technical tasks but still need training in coding and some other computer aspects of the program.

“One of the frustrating things we’ve found is some of the other contractors, for whatever reason, didn’t think our people could do that,” McCuskey said. “It’s frustrating when people don’t have faith in our own state employees. In my experience they do their work properly and quickly.”

“We have great employees who deserve a lot of credit for their work,” McCuskey later said.

The legislative auditor recommended the ERP board to have increased oversight target dates for training state employees, to have any modifications to the wvOASIS contract focused on completion, transition work to state employees and reduce reliance on consultants.

The report said the board contracted with Dataview, an ISG subcontractor, last month. The first year of this contract has a fixed cost of $1,122,000 and the second year, which is an optional extension, is fixed at $700,000 through May 2019.

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