Capitol Alert

UC estimates budget for long-delayed payroll upgrade will more than double

Students walk on the UCLA campus on Feb. 26, 2015.
Students walk on the UCLA campus on Feb. 26, 2015. The Associated Press

The University of California now estimates that a long-delayed upgrade to its payroll and personnel system will ultimately cost more than twice as much as originally expected.

At the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday in San Francisco, university officials said the UCPath computer project is tentatively scheduled for completion by the end of 2017 at a cost of $375 million, three years behind schedule and more than double the $156 million originally budgeted.

“The project has been much more difficult, far more complex and taken much longer than we initially projected,” Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom said.

UCPath – which stands for payroll, academic personnel, timekeeping and human resources – was conceived in 2009 as a necessary upgrade to the university’s outdated, 30-year-old payroll technology. Formally launched in September 2011 with a timeline of 36 months, the project bogged down as UC struggled to integrate the business processes of its 10 campuses, five medical centers and office of the president.

The regents last received an update on the project in July 2014, when officials promised a December launch in the president’s office followed by system-wide testing.

Mark Cianca, UC’s deputy chief information officer, said Wednesday that the initial deployment for approximately 1,800 employees in the office of the president is now scheduled for this fall. Testing at the Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Merced campuses is planned for fall 2016, with the remainder of UC’s 195,000 employees to follow in two more waves.

The cost of UCPath had already ballooned to more than $220 million. Cianca said financing for the project has been capped, and any further expenses will come out of campus IT budgets. Once it takes full effect, UCPath will require about $70 million per year to operate, with another $17.7 million annually over 20 years to pay off bond borrowing for the project.

Several regents chastised the university for the project’s failures, even as they acknowledged that UC needed to forge ahead and finish.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said UCPath was “absolutely consistent” with California’s long history of bungled computer projects, because there is no accountability, particularly for the technology companies with whom the state does business.

“At the end of the day, it comes back to one thing, and that’s procurement,” Newsom said.

A state audit last year found that, in the past two decades, the state spent nearly $1 billion on seven computer projects that were either terminated or suspended.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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