California government adds to infamous story of computer glitches
In my 35 years of writing about the Californian government, a constant refrain is the state government’s IT problems – ironically located in the state which is still considered the center of the global computer and internet revolutions.
The last: At January 4 report by Michael S. Tilden, CPA, the Acting California State Auditor, titled “FI$Cal Status: California’s New Centralized Tax System Will Again Miss Completion While Agencies Still Have To hard to use the new technology”.
It was always a concern of then-state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) when I worked for him as press secretary until 2020, before voters replaced a CPA. green-eyed by a radical leftist lawyer. How can a government with a budget of over $200 billion operate with inaccurate or non-existent numbers?
Moorlach himself wrote in The Epoch Times about a similar issue, State Comptroller Betty Yee’s delinquency again on the Full Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which ended on 30 June 2020, over 18 months ago.
The first problem with FI$Cal is the cute name, which needs to be changed. Why is the state doing this? A similar problem is with Medi-Cal, which sounds like “medical,” but is the state’s iteration of Medicaid. The name Medi-Cal is also easily confused with Medicare, the federal system for the elderly and disabled.
Either way, FI$Cal is supposed to link all of the state’s financial and budgetary systems. Tilden says the process began in 2005 and includes “computer systems used by the state comptroller and other departments.” Thus, the controller is again involved in another problem.
The usefulness of a functioning state financial system is obvious, as it allows CAFRs to be completed on time. Accurate numbers are needed by the legislature as it develops a budget each year, as well as those who do business with the state, journalists and concerned citizens.
This is especially true given California’s long history of fluctuating budgets. These range from huge surpluses, like today and in the late 1990s during the Internet boom, to massive deficits, like after the Internet crash of 2000-01 and the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007. -10.
Tilden finds that FI$Cal will not meet its June 2022 deadline to finish. And get this, “A final step involves the Office of the State Comptroller comparing the data produced by FI$Cal to the state’s full annual financial statements. [CAFR] to his old system and verify the accuracy of the data. However, this verification process has been delayed and the project office had not released a new schedule as of December 2021.”
State finances are a government Enron, but no one is held accountable. Voters are expected to but have been AWOL in the one-party state known as California. The last Republican comptroller was Houston I. Flourney, who left office on January 6, 1975, 47 years ago when Gerald Ford was president and Chairman Mao was the dictator of the People’s Republic of China.
Here is the graph of the report on what is happening:
Tilden again: “For the third year in a row, the state will release financial statements late, in part because of difficulties state agencies have had in using FI$Cal. Timely financial reporting is important for the state to maintain a high credit rating and access to federal funding.
It’s a chain of incompetence. Late financial statements delay FI$Cal, and FI$Cal’s delay sabotages the financial statements. Meanwhile, federal dollars that fund the state government, possibly including FI$Cal, could be delayed.
Here is the graph from the CAFR delay report:
Unfortunately, the crime will continue. That’s because, like arteriosclerosis of the arteries, which involves plaque clogging the walls of the arteries, the California government is littered with garbage and incompetence. And the government keeps munching on the glazed donuts.
Tilden concluded: “The likelihood that the volume of work to maintain FI$Cal will increase in the near future as more agencies use the system creates the risk that the department may not be able to provide all support functions. and maintenance required after official project approval. end date.”
Of course, there is a way to improve the functioning of the system: to significantly reduce the “volume of work”, i.e. the size of the state government. According KFFa health care information website, for fiscal year 2019 — the last year with a California CAFR — the California state government spent $7,604 per capita.
But Florida spent $3,845, or half that amount; and Texas, $4,174. This is how they may not have state income tax. Yet the roads in these states are better and their children are doing better in school. California would be better off abandoning its own state government and “contracting out” all operations to those states.
The Californian government “does not calculate”
“Don’t Calculate” is a cliche from old movies about the early days of computer crashes. A dot-matrix printer would produce a sheet of paper with these words on it.
Here are some other issues I remember.
One was a disastrous 1995 DMV computer project. After DMV manager Frank Zolin ultimately killed the $50 million project, he was forced to resign.
More recently, during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, Department of Employment Development IT glitches prevented hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed workers from receiving their needed checks, paid for by their own tax dollars, for months.
Working in Moorlach’s office at the time, I saw the pain firsthand. Although our excellent staff did most of the work to help these poor people when they called our office, I participated when needed. It was heartbreaking to hear their suffering, as the government couldn’t get its computers to work properly.
These computer problems hurt real people. But when will they be fixed, if ever?
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.