The State Worker

Legislation puts California state computer project under scrutiny

The Department of Consumer Affairs building in Sacramento.
The Department of Consumer Affairs building in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee

An infamous state computer system that has blown its budget, bogged down work and even cost job opportunities for some California residents would get more legislative scrutiny with a bill now in the Senate.

The Assembly has unanimously approved an urgency bill authored by Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, of Riverbank, which would require that the Department of Consumer Affairs report annually to lawmakers about the struggling BreEZe project.

The first report, which would be due in October, would have to explain how Consumer Affairs plans to move ahead with the project, whether the benefits justify the costs and whether it will make operations more efficient.

Assembly Bill 507 is a response to harsh news reports and a state audit that said the Consumer Affairs wasn’t ready when it launched BreEZe in 2013. Nursing students, for example, experienced lengthy delays in applying for licensing tests and some lost hospital jobs because of it. Consumer Affairs says those original glitches have been fixed.

One employee warned anyone who might listen that the project was off course, but to no avail. The project was supposed to roll out to the department’s 38 boards and bureaus, which regulate everything from acupuncturists to automotive repair shops, but the majority of those offices still don’t use the system.

Meanwhile, BreEZe has busted its budget several times, going from an estimated $28 million in 2009 to $96 million with new spending approved for this year. Even after all that, more than half of Consumer Affairs still won’t be using BreEZe by 2016 when the department plans to cut ties with the program’s vendor, Accenture, and assess what to do next.

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