Legislative auditor raps state technology office management – New Orleans CityBusiness

Louisiana state government’s Office of Technology Services has not developed an effective project management process, possibly jeopardizing its ability to address a $959 million modernization backlog, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says.

The OTS says major projects follow established management practices, adding that it has saved the state millions since it was launched in 2014.

Louisiana lawmakers consolidated information technology services for most executive branch agencies into OTS. State agencies had been cutting their technology budgets for years, and the office inherited an aging IT infrastructure estimated to cost $1.04 billion to replace, the LLA says.

OTS doesn’t get any general fund dollars; instead, it bills agencies for services. In fiscal year 2018, it spent $316.6 million, a 17.4 percent increase from 2016.

OTS has not defined performance expectations for the services it provides, which the Legislative Auditor says limits those agencies’ ability “to hold OTS accountable.” A Legislative Auditor survey found that at least a significant minority of state workers don’t think the office completes tasks in a timely fashion, though the office has significantly reduced the average wait time to resolve requests.

The LLA also points to staff shortages at OTS, noting that IT positions that were unfilled at the time of the consolidation were eliminated.

Richard Howze, chief information officer for OTS, says consolidation saved the state $75 million the first year. He says more work caused costs to rise, and points to the successful implementation of major projects such as LaMEDS, the health department’s year-old system for checking Medicaid eligibility.

Howze says OTS is developing performance expectations and procedures to handle complex requests. He acknowledges the staffing shortage and says the office is doing everything with its current resources to hire qualified workers.

The LLA report made public Monday does not address the office’s response to the November cybersecurity attack that led to service interruptions, though the auditor plans to do so in a future report.

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