Just about anyone can tell a story about a frustrating computer problem, but the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a costly nightmare to relate. With an upgrade of the state’s unemployment benefits system two years overdue and $6 million over budget, the department threw more money at the problem and ended up with a system that is not only failing to get unemployment checks out promptly but has told some recipients that they owe money to the state.
According to The Boston Globe, Labor continued to pay Deloitte Consulting of New York millions of dollars to correct its problems in what is now a $46 million upgrade. In the public sector, where there is taxpayer money to draw on, the temptation is to avoid a public furor over a boondoggle and just keep financing it until it is resolved, a strategy that would be less likely to work in the private sector. To its credit, state Department of Revenue Commission Amy Pitter, confronted with a similar problem with a new Deloitte computer system, according to The Globe, terminated the state’s contract with the company. (Deloitte asserts the contract ended through mutual agreement.)
The state Senate’s Committee on Post Audit and Oversight will hold hearings on the specific problems involving the unemployment claims computer system, and will explore ways of improving information technology purchasing procedures and reacting to systemic problems when they emerge. This airing out will be welcome, but of no consolation to unemployed residents still struggling to get the benefits promised them by the state.