TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers and auditors share anxiety about potential technical problems with the Kansas Department of Revenue’s planned launch in January of a multimillion-dollar computer system for issuing and tracking 2 million driver’s license records that is five years behind schedule.
Avoiding performance problems that plagued introduction in 2012 of the Department of Revenue’s vehicle registration system — replete with computer malfunctions and long lines for customers getting license tags — is the challenge, officials said.
A spokeswoman for Sam Williams, secretary of the revenue department, said the agency’s current leadership would make certain the project was managed “so that key milestones are met.”
“Implementation will occur at the appropriate time to ensure the new system works for Kansans,” said spokeswoman Rachel Whitten.
Anxiety among some state officials was reflected in an exchange between Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Coldwater Republican and a member of the Legislature’s joint information technology committee, and Katrin Osterhaus, an IT audit manager with the Legislative Division of Post Audit. Osterhaus recently testified before Hoffman’s committee, which includes House and Senate members.
Hoffman said he was puzzled by the state government’s shortcomings with introduction of large computer systems that touched the lives of so many taxpayers. It will be distressing, he said, if the driver’s license roll out falls short of public expectations.
“Do you have an answer whether or not you think we’re going to have those same problems?” Hoffman said. “Or, do you think because of the monitoring you guys have done we’re going to be relatively problem free?”
“I’m concerned,” said Osterhaus, who pointed to complexity of replacing an outdated mainframe computer with new equipment.
“It seems like this has been a long ordeal,” Hoffman said.
Osterhaus said a quarterly analysis of the revenue department’s KanDrive project indicated a company hired by the agency, MorphoTrust, repeatedly struggled to meet deadlines.
She discouraged talk by committee members, including the panel’s chairman, Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, about severing the contract with MorphoTrust and handing the work to another firm after so many years.
“I don’t know if that would be a good option,” Osterhaus said. “It’s so far into it.”
In March, Legislative Post Audit placed the KanDrive initiative on “caution status.” Problems included gaps in computer code and the necessity of workarounds to function. Auditors said staff from the revenue department, MorphoTrust and other contractors, Allied Global Services and Celtic, must complete tasks “on time and on budget.”
A separate report found the project’s security plan to be “significantly incomplete,” and the agency’s chief information security officer set a goal of completing that work by Sept. 30.
The state had planned to deploy the vehicle titling and registration system in July 2011. However, it was introduced as the first phase of KanDrive in May 2012. That prompted delays at county treasurer’s offices, complaints about corrupted files and clerks routinely being disconnected from the system.
The new driver’s license system was to have been operational in January 2012, but the contract with 3M was terminated in May 2014. The state agency abandoned an effort in August 2015 to complete that part of the project in-house. In November 2015, state officials approved a $6.1 million plan to finish phase two of KanDrive.