Assembly wants more accountability as costly project nears launch
The Municipality of Anchorage’s long past due and significantly over-budget SAP software project is on the Assembly’s agenda again, this time with assembly members wanting more accountability for the project that's already cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and isn't yet functional.
SAP is designed to automate several government programs, like payroll, and is expected to save the muni millions of dollars, but so far, it's only been what some call a headache, a mess, and even a monster.
The project was started in 2011 under former Mayor Dan Sullivan. It was originally estimated to cost about $10 million and take 18 months to complete.
In July, Municipal Manager Mike Abbott released a statement explaining the mayor’s decision to move forward with the project, saying, “By mid-2015, under the Sullivan administration, the Municipality had committed almost $50 million into a projected originally budgeted for $9 million. Both the Assembly and an external review commission agreed the most prudent path forward was bringing the project to completion. We are now near the finish line.”
The Muni is now six years into the project, with the latest price tag sitting at $81.5 million.
“That's a lot of money to spend on a project,” said Assemblymember Felix Rivera Monday. He says at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting, members will vote on a resolution requesting they get weekly updates from consultants on the project.
He says at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting, members will vote on a resolution requesting they get weekly updates from consultants on the project.
They’ve been getting monthly updates, but the team recommended more frequent briefings as the most recent "go live" date for the project, October 1, is approaching fast.
“There's two things, really important, that I want to know and that I think the Assembly wants to know: Are we gonna be able to, with this new program, be able to correctly pay our employees, [because] that's really important. And then, two, are we gonna be able to purchase goods and services? Those are two really important things I want to make sure we are updated on the progress of and I want to know immediately if we're going to be falling behind schedule and not going live in October, [because] then that's probably gonna cost us even more money, and that's gonna be pretty controversial if that happens,” said Rivera.
He says Friday, August 11, is when assembly members will find out about both payroll and purchasing, and whether they work. After that, September 11 is the next critical date. Rivera says that's when employees will start punching in and out through the SAP program.
To reach the finish line, he says the team working on SAP implementation is working overtime and weekends, but even if all goes according to plan, Rivera says the price tag could still get higher once SAP goes live.
“The team has continually said to the assembly, you know, ‘It's not gonna be over October first,’ we're gonna have to, this, just like any other program, any other software, we're gonna have to maintain, and that's gonna cost money,” he said.
In a statement Monday, Myer Hutchinson, a spokesperson for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’ administration, said, “SAP costs moving forward, from the $81 million of program costs (paid for by the previous administration on lines of credit), as well as ongoing licensing and maintenance fees (like other municipal software programs) will be identified and budgeted for annually. We are working with departments now to build the 2018 budget that will be presented to the Assembly.”