California’s $2bn court IT project ruled “appalling”

A $2 billion, 10-year project to build a unified IT system for the US state of California’s courts has been slammed as “appalling” by an official enquiry, Courthouse News Service reports.

The unfinished project, which began in 2001 and has so far cost California tax payers $1.9 billion, has been grossly mismanaged from day one, the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee found. "We’ve seen nothing but incompetence from the start to where we are today,” Judge Tia Fisher said.

Court employees told the enquiry that the new system is “cumbersome and inefficient”, with many tasks taking longer to complete than under the previous system. Originally due for completion this year, it will now not be finished until at least 2015.

Auditors found the project had been let down by “poor cost estimates and uncertain funding”. The contract, with accounting and management consultancy giant Deloitte, has been amended 102 times, costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Legislators remarked that at a time when funding cuts mean the California court service is making redundancies, this project’s failure calls its financial oversight capability into question. “This audit highlights the misplaced priorities and careless spending that make people distrust their government,” said Democrat assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal.

The UK’s court service has also struggled with its IT projects. The Libra case management system, which was delivered seven years late and £260 million over budget, was once described by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee as “one of the worst IT projects I have ever seen”.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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