Several months ago, I made a bit of a splash by detailing the amount of money the State of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board spent on developing a web site to track and manage the campaign finance reports political campaigns.
People were surprised to learn that not only did the web site cost an astonishingly large amount of money – $2 million – to develop, it was outsourced to a Connecticut company that delivered a product that was not terribly functional or well done. In short, we paid a lot of money as taxpayers for a system with less functionality than my weblog, and to top it off, it’s never really worked very well.
It’s disheartening to hear that a full two months after I wrote that original piece, and several more months since the system was supposed to be functional, that the problems with the Campaign Finance System web site continue.
Candidates were required to file reports Feb. 2, and most of them said they did so. They said the reason their reports weren’t available publicly was because a newly developed state Web site is riddled with problems.
Officials with the Government Accountability Board acknowledged problems with the campaign filing computer system but said candidates may be at fault in some cases.
The state board says the new system has problems, but that campaigns should be able to file their reports. Computer developers are continuing to work out bugs, said Jonathan Becker, head of the board’s Ethics Division.
In my personal and professional opinion, when you submit data to a web site that disappears or can’t submit data at all, it’s not a “bug”.
If that’s how the GAB is choosing to classifying these substantial problems, it goes a long way in explaining why months after it was launched, this web site that should allow the public to keep an eye on campaign finances is still not working properly.
This is why when I originally blew the whistle on this project and detailed it’s massive cost and shocking shortfalls, I made the case for having a group of IT professionals involved in big projects like this in an advisory role of some sort.
Such a move would prevent many of these problems from happening and help the non-technical staff deal with vendors when problems do pop up. As anyone who works in the industry knows, there’s a big probability here that the vendor is pulling out confusing technobabble here to cover their mistakes and redirect the blame.
It’s how massive functional failures are labeled as nothing more than “bugs”, and if there was appropriate technical staff to push back against the technobabble these issues could resolved more quickly and with less cost to taxpayers.
Months delayed and well beyond a reasonable cost, it’s about time the Government Accountability Board either have the vendor they paid several million dollars fix the site, or cancel the contract and find a company that will be held accountable – preferably from Wisconsin – who can.