Computer system meant to cut labor triples workloads

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A $50 million computer system meant to save city
employees time in handling a variety of jobs is being used inconsistently and
has tripled workloads for purchasing and contracting staffers, according to a
report to the City Council Tuesday.

Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group was hired at council President Todd
Gloria's urging to review city operations last summer when he was interim
mayor in the wake of Bob Filner's resignation.

Huron also looked at fleet maintenance and real estate assets and
provided suggestions on developing an open data policy.

Andrea Tevlin, the city's independent budget analyst, told council
members a common thread through the reports was that the city's technology has
been under-utilized, and employees have not been given enough training on the
system.

She said the city began work on the new system, known informally as SAP,
as far back as 2007 and began using it in July 2009.

SAP was designed to integrate major city functions, increase
efficiencies and eliminate labor-intensive manual processes.

However, an SAP module “creates three times the workload for
(purchasing and contracting) staff,” Tevlin said.

“P&C staff was unable to generate data and reports easily out of SAP.
Solicitation processes are manual and take place outside SAP, and there is a
lack of thorough SAP training for P&C staff,” she said.

The system is effective for budgeting and financial management “but it
looks like we have greater opportunities for its use,” Tevlin said.

Huron's Stephen Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis, said no one
is ever happy with new software, but results have generally been better
elsewhere.

“That's a of money to spend and end up where we are at today,”
councilwoman Lorie Zapf said.

The head of purchasing and contracting, Dennis Gakunga, said a package
of fixes would be brought to the City Council next week.

The recommendations will address all 20 of the consultant's suggestions,
including citywide training on purchasing procedures that will begin in July.

Gakunga is relatively new to the job.

Huron consultants said frequent changes in leadership left Purchasing &
Contracting without a comprehensive vision and strategy.

The consultant's findings on the Real Estate's Assets Department were
presented to the City Council about two weeks after the division's director,
James Barwick, was fired by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

City employees interviewed by Huron said they thought too many hands
were involved in city property issues that the Real Estate Assets Department
“may not be aware of the composition of the city's entire real estate
portfolio.”

The department manages city-owned properties like Qualcomm Stadium and
Petco Park, fire stations and libraries, and parks and open space. Individual
departments are involved in maintenance and other activities involving the
properties, and some transactions have been made with limited or no knowledge
by Real Estate Assets, according to Huron.

The department – it also handles leases of municipal properties to
outside organizations and handles rental agreements for city offices in
privately owned buildings – is in need of a clear vision and strategy, the
consultants said.

Huron also found through interviews that Real Estate Assets does not
place enough emphasis on service to clients, and customers don't have much
faith in the data they receive. Moreover, collaboration and coordination with
other city departments is limited, the report said.

The consultants said interviewees lauded the department's leaders for an
open-door policy and willingness to step in and solve problems.

A report on Fleet Services said the department does not accurately track
labor time and costs, does not use key metrics to manage operations, and is
not meeting availability requirements for the city's vehicles – like fire
trucks and refuse haulers.

The department has been ground zero for the past year in the debate over
a stalled city program to put certain municipal functions out for competitive
bidding.

A group of employees submitted the winning fleet maintenance bid, but
Filner and other opponents of the “managed competition” program contended the
department has been unable to keep up with its workload.

Filner suspended managed competition as a result. Faulconer won election
in February in part on a platform of resuming the program.

The Huron report said Fleet Services has enough facilities to manage the
city's fleet and enough employees to conduct efficient operations, but that a
“long lead time” between being awarded the competitive bidding contract and
being able to implement its new organizational structure has “compounded the
problems.”

According to Gloria, another Huron report, which will be on managed
competition, is scheduled to come to the City Council in June.

Categories: KUSI