Participating in the governor's program to consolidate information technology services has cost the Oklahoma Board of Nursing more money and resulted in security breaches and poorer service, according to a state audit released Monday.
Consolidation of information technology services within the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) was one of the major initiatives of Gov. Mary Fallin. Such computer support services previously were scattered among dozens of state agencies.
The governor touted consolidation as a way to improve efficiency and save money.
It hasn't worked out that way for the Board of Nursing, according to a performance audit released Monday by State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones.
“Instead of reducing costs, the consolidation has actually increased related IT (information technology) expenses by 14 percent from Fiscal Year 2011 to Fiscal Year 2013,” auditors reported.
Information technology expenses cost the Board of Nursing $204,396 in Fiscal Year 2011, before the consolidation. Those costs rose to $232,569 in Fiscal Year 2013, after the consolidation had taken place, auditor said.
OMES workers also breached security by granting employees unapproved access to files, auditors said.
“Inappropriate employee access could undermine the agency's internal controls and data security, allowing unauthorized staff to read or edit file content such as licensing information, payment details and Social Security numbers,” auditors said.
Failed to meet targets
Auditors said the Office of Management and Enterprise Services has failed to meet agreed-upon targets for timely responses and resolutions to computer system complaints.
If the Office of Management and Enterprise Services was a private vendor, “the substandard service level provided to OBN (Oklahoma Board of Nursing) quite possibly would result in termination of the IT service agreement,” auditors said.
Many other state agencies have registered similar complaints following consolidation and a number of those concerns were reflected in a recent Senate subcommittee report, the audit said.
Auditors noted 25 state agencies, including the Attorney General's Office and Oklahoma Department of Transportation, are scheduled to join the state's information technology consolidation efforts in Fiscal Year 2014.
To those state agencies, auditors issued a caution: “Prospective candidates would be well served to carefully consider this audit, as OBN's experience does not appear to be an isolated case.”
John Estus, OMES spokesman, complained Monday evening that his agency was not notified of the audit's findings and given a chance to respond before the audit's public release.
“It's disappointing that such a basic, standard auditing practice wasn't extended, but we're reviewing the findings nonetheless and we take them seriously,” Estus said.
Estus said consolidation of information technology services for the Board of Nursing “was one of the few agency consolidations that was never projected to save money.”
“For this reason, we let the board decide whether to undergo consolidation and it opted to do so knowing the cost would be higher than previous spending,” he said.
Estus said OMES officials need more time to review the rest of the audit's findings before discussing them.
“Any large organization will attest that initiatives of this size and complexity bring challenges. The effort as a whole is meeting its goal of reducing statewide IT costs while improving services and security.”The statewide IT consolidation is one of the most complex, difficult initiatives currently underway in state government,” he said. “
‘Bumps in the road'
Alex Pettit, the state's chief information technology officer, said last February that the state had already streamlined information technology services for about 50 of the state's 132 agencies. He claimed combined savings of about $42 million a year.
“There are unfortunate bumps in the road in any effort this size, and for that we apologize and pledge to keep working to improve,” Estus said. “At OMES leadership's request, significant efforts were initiated this summer to improve the quality of IT services provided to our partner agencies. We know improvements need to be made and have refocused our efforts on quality of service above quantity of service to reflect that goal.”
Any large organization will attest that initiatives of this size and complexity bring challenges. The effort as a whole is meeting its goal of reducing statewide IT costs while improving services and security.”