Flap follows Arkansas ERP system

'It is an expensive project, but it is more expensive not to upgrade.'

'Gov. Mike Huckabee

A dispute over the costs and effectiveness of Arkansas' state enterprise resource planning system has created a bitter controversy at the highest level of the state's government.

Gov. Mike Huckabee fired state CIO Randall Bradford and computer security chief Michael Miller in June. Bradford had charged that the $52 million Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System wouldn't work properly unless it receives a $5 million upgrade.

Huckabee denied Bradford's claim and said the system, developed with software from SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa., and which the state is deploying in modules, had already helped the state cut costs and improve efficiency.

A report by the state's Division of Legislative Audit said deployment of some AASIS modules was delayed because of funding and staffing shortages, and that project managers didn't know when several modules would be ready.

Audit raises questions

The audit questioned AASIS' accuracy and reliability, and said only 14 of 182 agencies reported that the system had reduced the time users take to perform routine tasks.

The report said AASIS managers had not properly budgeted for the system's costs and failed to develop a method of defraying expected maintenance costs.

The auditors recommended that the state improve AASIS cost tracking, establish firm plans for implementing additional modules, focus on reconciling financial records and improve training for the system.

Huckabee rejected criticism of the system, saying AASIS deployment allowed dozens of state bank accounts to be closed and permitted state agencies to consolidate many federal employee identification numbers.

'I'm proud that we decided to be a pioneer' in implementing the ERP system, Huckabee said. 'The $52 million cost compares favorably with systems in Florida and Pennsylvania, which will take longer and cost more.'

He said his staff had assured him that AASIS would be up to the task.

Every agency, board and commission in the executive branch of the state government uses AASIS to conduct administrative business. Some legislative and judicial agencies also use the system.

In the first phase of the program's deployment, which started in July 2001, agencies began using the system for financial management functions, such as grant and project accounting, procurement, asset management, inventory control and budget development.

AASIS also handles human resources tasks such as payroll and benefits administration, time reporting and tracking and employee training.

Users who conduct operations with AASIS regularly access the system through a networked interface developed by SAP. Occasional users enter the system over the Web via a standard browser.

Huckabee said consultants Deloitte and Touche LLP of New York and Maximus Inc. of Reston, Va., oversaw the deployment of AASIS. 'It is an expensive project, but it is more expensive not to upgrade,' he said.

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