Douglas County Treasurer Paula Gilchrist said she agrees with the decision by a legislative committee to launch an audit into what went wrong with the Kansas Department of Revenue’s $40 million computer upgrade of the system that handles motor vehicle tags and renewals.
Like several other counties, Douglas County has experienced long lines and frustrated customers dealing with the new system.
“Our staff has worked very, very hard to get us to a place where we are not overwhelmed with problems,” said Gilchrist.
In a recent 5-3 vote, the Legislative Post Audit Committee approved looking into implementation of what is called the Department of Motor Vehicles Modernization Project.
The $40 million contract with 3M Co. to replace an aging motor vehicles mainframe system has produced many complaints.
Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, called the switchover a disaster. Kelly said she knows of people who have had to take days off from work to wait in line to get their vehicle tags.
“That is unacceptable,” she said.
Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan acknowledged there have been problems and said the agency is working to correct them. He noted that the department has withheld its final payment from 3M until improvements are made to the program.
But Jordan also indicated some of the problem may have been because officials in some counties didn’t avail themselves to enough training on the new system.
Douglas County Treasurer Gilchrist disagreed, saying many problems have arisen that had nothing to do with training.
She said she believed the state did not test the system enough before implementing it in May.
And she said some of the programs weren’t working.
“There were records in the old system that didn’t transfer over to the new system. We had to take the time to log into two or three systems and re-create your record,” she said.
Several members of the committee voted against the audit saying it wouldn’t be completed until April 2013, long after the system is finally implemented.
“I understand the concern — I’m just questioning what benefit it would provide for the Legislature and for the citizens of Kansas,” state Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, said.
Kelly said she wasn’t trying to point fingers but thought an audit would help in future computer system switchovers.
“This will provide a road map the next time we make a radical transition from one program to another,” she said.
Gilchrist said a study would provide some explanation to citizens.
“I think the taxpayers are going to want to understand why this happened,” she said.