Editorial: State bungling driver’s license initiative

It’s a telling indictment of the inefficiencies of government that 10 years after the project began, the state’s new driver’s license system still isn’t online.

The multimillion-dollar computer project at the Kansas Department of Revenue is likely to be delayed once again, according to a recent Legislative Post Audit report.

The KanLicense project is a replacement for the Division of Motor Vehicles’ aging mainframe system that manages the more than 2 million Kansas driver’s licenses. It is the system law enforcement uses to track the driving records of individuals, including suspensions and revocations.

Originally planned to go online in 2012, the KanLicense program has been overrun by delays, according to the Post Audit report. Officials had hoped it would go online in January, but the report said that appears unlikely.

“We’re five years behind and we’ve put additional funds in it. It’s not a good way to do business,” said state Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, who chairs the Legislative Post Audit Committee, which recently received an update on the project.

The KanLicense project was part of a larger information technology upgrade at the Division of Motor Vehicles that began in 2002. The first phase involved upgrading the system that manages vehicle titles and registrations. And when that project went online a year late in May 2012, it didn’t work properly.

The driver’s license project, the second phase, had been scheduled to go online in January 2012. In May 2014, with the project already more than two years behind schedule, the department terminated its contract with project manager 3M. The department said then it planned to complete the project in-house for $2.1 million by November 2015. But by August 2015, the project was listed as stopped. Next, the project was included in November 2015 as part of the KanLicense project at an estimated cost of $6.1 million and a completion date in December 2017.

But auditors noted that the scope of the project has changed several times since November 2015, and a key contractor on the project, MorphoTrust, has already missed several deadlines. The project’s cost has also climbed to $8.6 million.

It isn’t clear when the project will be completed or how much it will cost. The one thing that is clear is that the KanLicense project is a cautionary tale of government mismanagement.