No One Did Anything Wrong

As reported in the Palm Beach Post, the Palm Beach County courts are trying to determine whether they should scrap their computer system that had a $13.6 million upgrade last year. The upgrade got them off their old mainframe onto a newer platform, and it was slated to give the court some functional upgrades as well.

Unfortunately, things haven't turned out too well. For example, when the court's computer system electronically alerts the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles of license suspensions, court staff have to telephone the DMV to ensure the information was not only received but received correctly. Another example was that before sending out 40,000 letters ordering people who owed the court money for unpaid fines, court staff had to manually check to ensure that they were mailing letters to the people who actually owed the court money and that the amounts stated in the letters were correct.

As a result of the problems, the courts have had to hire an additional 29 staff at a cost of $1.4 million per annum to try to keep the court system operating to some level of normality.

The upgrade, which was originally estimated to take six months to a year to convert all the data stored in the mainframe into the new system actually took 3 1/2 years. When the initial schedule estimate was made, court officials figured they would encounter three or four different methods of inputting data into the system. However, over a 150 different were actually being used.

No one seemed to checked this "minor" assumption before the contract was let. It gets better.

During the upgrade, one vendor went bankrupt, another gave up and left and a third was fired and ultimately reimbursed the county $5.6 million. The fourth "completed" the upgrade, if you can call a computer system with "tens of thousands of errors" in it complete.

To make the situation even more interesting, who controlled and paid for the system upgrade was a subject of a political wrestling match for its entire development.

In reflecting on the fiasco, Clerk of Courts and Comptroller Sharon Bock is quoted as saying, presumably with a straight face that, "It's not something that anyone did wrong."


Sounds to me like its time for the IT Mercy Rule to take effect.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City