Views from Kansas: State stumbled on IT decisions
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
The fallout of irresponsible actions in state government lingers.
While the financial undermining of roads, public education, social services, law enforcement and other core services in Kansas has been well documented, a look at one project in particular was more evidence of less-than-sound decisions.
When the Kansas Statehouse was dominated by policymakers on the far right, the stated interest in cutting government waste from then-Gov. Sam Brownback and others in his circle seemed reasonable. But their relentless quest to shortchange operations and rely on less-than-qualified decision-makers too often created more long-term harm than good.
One example involved IT ventures, including the purchase of some $10 million in computer equipment to develop a centralized storage system for computer information. But the proposed Kansas GovCloud eventually was scuttled by state IT officials who deemed it cost prohibitive — which generated legitimate criticism about a lack of foresight in crafting an overall IT plan for state operations.
Officials then turned to an outside company — CGI Co. in Canada — to store data on remote servers accessed from the internet. Kansas now has questionable no-bid deals with CGI that are expected to cost the state $82 million over 10 years.
The outsourcing wasn’t a surprise, as privatization of state services was a high priority for the Brownback administration and like-minded legislators. Their blind adherence to ultraconservative ideology often blocked prudent decision-making.
Privatization, often pitched as a panacea, doesn’t always bring cost savings or better services. And, it reduces accountability to taxpayers.
As for the surplus computer equipment stored for years in the Docking State Office Building, the state is out to sell or give away the unused hardware that’s declined in value as newer technologies emerged.
Not every plan developed in the state Capitol is a home run, regardless of who’s involved. Republicans and Democrats alike misfire. But shortsightedness and action driven more by ideology than practicality on ultraconservatives’ watch in recent years exacted a toll that will burden Kansas for years to come.
The storage-cloud saga emphasized the need for a better effort to fashion a viable IT plan — and was yet another reminder for all in state government to be thoughtful and collaborative when it comes to decisions that impact Kansans in many ways.
— Originally published in The Topeka Capital-Journal