Loudoun County’s multi-million dollar ERP problems continue
The course reversal came a week after the committee approved the expenditure.
Last week the finance committee struggled to understand why county staff recommended supervisors approve the hefty salary for a sole project executive to oversee phase two implementation of the county’s management system that keeps track of everything from taxes, assessments and human resources for Loudoun County government and public schools.
Several supervisors had asked why county staff did not consider hiring a team rather than one person for a year’s worth of work.
While some wondered why staff only looked at one company during the hiring process and not more, others asked why they were being rushed into awarding the contract.
To date, over the course of nearly five years, the county has spent nearly $40 million on the ERP project.
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) last week said she felt “backed in a corner” by staff to award the contract. She said she found it “hard to believe” the person was “the only game in town.”
“It’s very rare that... they’re the only one that can do this,” Randall said.
The project executive would have provided “executive oversight” for county department heads and contractors working on the project during the first part of the phase two implementation. During the second phase, the project executive would have focused on “managing and monitoring ongoing business operations” and provided guidance on the overall implementation of the ERP business strategy.
For years the county has struggled with rolling out phases one, two and three of the integrated software system that officials say will support the business needs of Loudoun for the next 20 years.
Phase two, which implements the county government’s and LCPS’ human resources and payroll into the system, started in January 2014 but was put on hold less than a year later. County staff now predicts that, with the latest restart of phase two, LCPS will “go live” on July 5 and the county government on July 25.
“I’m just having trouble with trying to understand how one single individual is going to make half a million dollars worth of improvements to our process,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), the finance committee chair, asked staff last week.
Wendy Wickens, Loudoun’s director of the Department of Information Technology, said even though it seemed like a lot of money the candidate had “a tremendous amount of experience as an implementer of transformational types of activities.”
She also argued that the county would save money in the long run by hiring the candidate.
“I think you could have three people of marginal capability or you could have one person who’s got a demonstrated track record of proven capability,” Wickens said last week. “I think it all comes down to the person themself and their ability to deliver.”
County staff noted a decision on the contract needed to be made quickly because the candidate was in the midst of leaving another “engagement” and would need to quickly begin the work in Loudoun.
Although supervisors would have awarded the contract to Yahya Technologies, LLC (Y-Tech), the project executive would have been a subcontractor of the company.
When asked who the candidate for the $533,200 position was and what their specific qualifications were, a county spokesman declined to say, noting that the contract had not been finalized.
Tens of millions spent
In 2011, a previous Board of Supervisors voted to authorize the negotiation of a contract not to exceed $21 million to implement ORACLE eBusiness Suite as the ERP system for Loudoun County government and public schools.
Since that time, the county has spent millions more to smooth out implementation hiccups.
All together, the county has appropriated around $40 million to the ERP for project management, personnel, consulting and “other technical support.”
Supervisors have also coughed up millions in expenditures on new technology positions to run the system and other costs related to ERP’s implementation.
The board in 2013 appropriated an additional $9.1 million to the capital project budget to complete “outstanding items” for phase one and provide “additional resources” to complete phase two. Two years later, the board appropriated $1.5 million from fiscal 2015 fund balance to complete phase two.
Last year the board sent $4.7 million more from the general fund balance for the project.
Letourneau this week said the finance committee had decided to walk back its latest contract award after having “further discussion” with County Administrator Tim Hemstreet.
“We have found other ways to handle that particular issue with ERP, and we no longer think it’s necessary to proceed,” Letourneau said.
The committee voted unanimously with Randall absent for the vote to table last week’s $533,200 contract award.
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