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Auditors details troubles at state IT agency

Rosalind Helderman

Northrop-Grumman is likely to miss another deadline for overhauling Virginia's computer network, reported the state's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission this morning.

JLARC said continued contractual disputes between the massive Los Angeles-based defense company and state agencies would probably result in the company missing a July 2010 deadline to complete its work. That deadline already represented a yearlong extension for the company.

The JLARC study was the result of a two-year-long review of the $2.3 billion computer outsourcing contract awarded to Northrop-Grumman, the largest contract in Virginia history. Today's conclusions and recommendations expanded on those contained in a draft version of the report released in October.

JLARC found that state agencies have continued to struggle with their computer services, as cost savings and efficiencies that had been the goal of consolidating and privatizing state computer services have failed to materialize.

The Virginia Department of Transportation, for instance, lost computer functions during a major storm in November, preventing the agency from monitoring conditions on roads and bridges. Agency leaders said they once had backups for such functions but no longer do. The state experienced 63 IT problems in November so severe that they caused a complete work stoppage affecting an entire state agency.

The auditors found that state oversight of IT services has been poor, and that some conflicts with the company were the result of a vague contract based on unrealistic expectations. The Virginia Information Technology Agency remains in discussions with Northrop-Grumman, which has asked for amendments to be made to the company's contract with the state, including some that will result in higher yearly payments.

JLARC has also endorsed bringing technology services under the control of the governor, instead of an independent board that answers neither to the governor nor the General Assembly.

The General Assembly will continue its investigations into the troubled contract when it meets in January. Fixing the state IT troubles without incurring massive new costs will soon be a top priority for Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 14, 2009; 3:39 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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