The biggest technology project in California state government will miss a key deadline in July, postponing the full implementation of a $900 million statewide budget program that has been in development since 2005.
Much of the Financial Information System for California, known as FI$Cal, is moving forward, and 33 state departments are scheduled to begin using it this summer.
But, an important phase linking the new program to the Treasurer’s Office and the State Controller’s Office will not occur as scheduled. It was to be an important milestone because the controller reports on the overall scope of state spending and the treasurer manages the state’s investments.
FI$Cal Chief Deputy Director Neeraj Chauhan said tests of the program in May revealed that it was not yet ready for full use by the Controller’s Office.
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Normally, the state rolls out FI$Cal to different departments at the beginning of new budget years. That’s July 1. The state does not plan to wait a year to put the delayed programs in place for the Controller’s Office. The program could be operational at the start of an upcoming financial quarter, such as in October, Chauhan said.
FI$Cal is a complex project that would unify budgeting, accounting and procurement programs across dozens of state departments. Smaller departments and vendors that do business with the state have been using it since 2014. Training employees to use it can take up to a year, Chauhan said.
When the controller and treasurer can use it as designed, Chauhan said state officials will be able to receive timely, accurate data for financial planning because state department would be working from a single accounting program.
“Those pieces will get faster and the data will get more reliable in the system,” he said.
Officials from the state Technology Department reported the delay to lawmakers in May. The Bee also obtained an internal document detailing program delays that circulated among state departments last month.
State Auditor Elaine Howle in January published a report that warned of potential delays in FI$Cal’s plan to implement the program in about 150 departments by 2019, suggesting it may take an another year and $100 million to finish it.
Auditors raised concerns about turnover in FI$Cal’s own staff and delays that smaller departments experienced when they began using the new system. They noted that larger departments – the ones that are not yet using FI$Cal – could experience serious delays when their staff members learn the new program.