Thrift revamp begins anew

Thrift revamp begins anew

Louis Ray

Materials, Communication and Computers Inc. expects to finish its analysis of the computerized record-keeping system for the Thrift Savings Plan by September and begin upgrading it, but the company will likely have to start the project from scratch, an official with the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said.

The board last month hired Matcom of Alexandria, Va., to complete work begun in 1997 by American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

There appears, however, to be little to show for AMS' efforts, the board said.

Roger Mehle, executive director of the board, called the work AMS had done on the system 'virtually valueless' at a briefing last week for the directors of the Thrift Savings Plan.

'We are doing an analysis of where the problems are and what requirements the board has,' Matcom president Louis H. Ray said.

A board spokesman said, 'Matcom is reviewing AMS code to see if anything can be used, though at this point it's doubtful that anything can be used.'

The new system will be delivered by July 2002, the spokesman said.

Matcom received a one-year, $20 million contract after the board terminated its contract with AMS. Following a series of schedule delays and cost overruns, the board sued AMS for $350 million in damages [GCN, July 30, Page 15].

In a press release issued after the board filed suit, AMS blamed the project's problems on the board's demands for extensive customization and inability to specify system requirements.

Delays and rising costs

When the board hired AMS, the project was expected to be done by May 2000 for about $30 million. But the costs spiraled to $90 million, and the completion date was pushed back to January of next year.

Originally, AMS planned to use a customized version of OmniPlus, a record-keeping system from SunGard Employee Benefits System of Birmingham, Ala.

The product was intended to add functions to the system that serves the Thrift Savings Plan, a retirement fund for 2.5 million federal workers.

The system was to improve customer service, provide access to two additional funds and reduce the need for manual processing of transactions.

Now, the board will have to keep waiting for the upgrade.

'Our current record-keeping system has been serving us reliably for 15 years, and it can continue to do so indefinitely,' Mehle said. 'We will make the transition from it to the new OmniPlus-based system only when we are completely satisfied that the new system is just as reliable.'

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