State Rep. Mark Huizenga today spoke before the House Appropriations Committee on the need to be more effective with taxpayer dollars on state information technology (IT) projects.
Huizenga chaired a bipartisan task force looking into a concerning trend of spending overruns and inefficiencies plaguing IT projects. The group developed a report which Huizenga shared with the committee, and upcoming legislation will promote best practices based on the findings.
“We wanted to dig into some of these issues to see if a service taxpayers both fund and use were actually serviceable, or if we could do better,” said Huizenga, of Walker. “We weren’t setting out to reinvent the wheel. We are looking to work with departments to set a new bar for efficiency for our state government’s IT systems going forward, using evidence-based information from our task force work.”
Huizenga noted a few examples that led to the task force’s efforts. A Department of Health and Human Services system related to tracking child abuse and neglect cases, for example, has received $231 million in the past several years and still has persistent and significant defects. About 40,000 Michigan residents were victimized and wrongfully accused of fraud between 2013 and 2015 by a faulty computer system used by the Unemployment Insurance Agency. A failed Secretary of State computer system overhaul started in 2005 resulted in service issues, lawsuits and cost overruns.
The first-term legislator said inefficiencies often lead to other essential funding needs being shortchanged, such as roads, schools and public safety.
“We frequently look at areas where we can make taxpayer dollars go farther,” Huizenga said. “That’s part of our charge as legislators – constructing a responsible form of government to instill more confidence among the people we represent. These reforms will help accomplish what we set out to do.”
Huizenga will soon offer one of five expected legislative proposals in accordance with the task force’s findings and recommendations. While working with other task force members to cultivate the reforms, Huizenga’s plan establishes “clawback” provisions to help hold contractors accountable. The change will call for money to be repaid or other penalties to be implemented if a contractor fails to deliver on contractual obligations related to project completion and performance.
“This plan will employ a very fundamental principle when it comes to paying for a service,” Huizenga said. “If the work is not executed as promised, you would expect a refund, discount or other remedy provided by the individual or company performing that work. This will do the same for the taxpayers funding these services.”
Legislation is also expected to address general oversight and transparency issues, as well as standardizing accounting practices, terminology and management on IT projects throughout state departments.