All systems go?

The situation surrounding city’s plans for new police, fire, dispatch and municipal courts information and computer systems — as well as allegations by a police captain against the city’s project manager overseeing the program — is the subject of a state auditor investigation. The investigation was forwarded by the city to the state auditor and Inspector Gary Jones’ office.

The improvements, along with several other programs and infrastructure items, are being paid for out of the city’s $110 million Public Safety Improvement sales tax, passed in 2000. City records indicate that while 95 percent or more of the work on the program has been completed, the police department’s and municipal court’s record systems have yet to be finished.

The contract signed in 2004 for the two systems, as well as other systems already completed, is for $18.5 million with the company Affiliated Computer Services (ACS).

ACS subcontracted a company named SmartCop to work on the police system and other systems, but ACS terminated the subcontract in 2006 after determining the computer code being developed by SmartCop was not suitable, according to a lawsuit filed by ACS against SmartCop.

ACS hired a new subcontractor, but work on the system had to start from scratch, despite ACS already paying SmartCop $1.3 million in money it got from the city, the lawsuit states.

Couch and ACS both said the delay was mainly due to the SmartCop situation. Records show that SmartCop was originally contracted to complete the project by 2006; the company then was given a deadline extension to 2007.

The city’s contract with ACS has been renewed twice, once in August 2010 and a second time in June. The latter allowed for the city to begin negotiating with the new subcontractors, which are doing all the work at this point, and eventually cut ACS out of the deal entirely, Couch said.

Money woes

A complaint sent to the city’s ethics hotline by Oklahoma City Police Capt. Bradd Brown alleged that in the weeks leading up to June’s contract extension, the city manager’s office attempted to keep the council in the dark on the issue.

The complaint further claimed that contractors already had been paid for benchmarks yet to be met (thereby eliminating incentive to complete the project), and that the steering committee in charge of oversight failed to manage the program responsibly.

Brown’s allegations also state that a city employee tried to personally enrich himself by misappropriating funds, and that the employee was demoted, but no audit was conducted of the program despite requests from department heads.

Couch, who was on vacation when the issue was first reported last week by Oklahoma Gazette, said the employee in question never was demoted and that he was confident that the employee did not misappropriate funds. Couch added that, had the employee done so, he would have been terminated.

Couch said that the program remains on budget, although significantly delayed. The city is not out any money, besides some extra staff work time. ACS likely has lost money due to the SmartCop incident.

The city stopped paying project management fees of around $10,000 a month to ACS last year. City officials are working to negotiate taking over project management from ACS to deal directly with the subcontractors working on the systems.

“As I sit here today, I don’t know the system is not coming up and I don’t know that it’s going to come up on budget. I do know it’s not going to come up on time,” Couch said.

Although the city had a chance to attempt to make a claim on ACS’s $2.5 million performance bond, it released that bond in the contract extension, because trying to have it forfeited likely would cost more.

“What it brings to you is another set of attorneys to the dispute,” Couch said.

‘Pain in the butt’
Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry said ACS was not paid until it hit project milestones, even when those milestones were met later than promised.

Couch said the problems with SmartCop, as well as other issues both on the city side and with ACS, have delayed the project by as much as two years.

While Couch said he was confident the project was managed properly, he did say conflicting personalities were involved.

“I’ve been frustrated that it’s not done yet on this. On any project of this type, it’s hard, it’s complicated. Yeah, there’s been some friction on this project. There’s a lot of pieces,” he said. “When you’ve got a guy losing money on the job, it’s a pain in the butt. It’s like you’re dealing with a hurt dog: They’re going to jump and bite at you. This is clearly a project where you have a company losing money on the job. They were cutting back on some of the resources and that was causing some stress in the project.”

According to a memo in May, Kerry Wagnon, manager of the Public Safety Capital Project, stated that it was not desirable to extend ACS’ contract because the company could not manage subcontractors sufficiently to provide all the functionality promised within cost and on time.

Couch expressed confidence that the audit would clear the city and employees of any mismanagement or wrongdoing.

Hey! Read This:
OKC officials request state audit

Clifton Adcock

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