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Government computer system still has glitches

Posted: October 23, 2011 - 1:05am

Columbia County commissioners were forced last month to budget more money to a worker’s compensation program because of a computer error.

A glitch in the county’s Munis computer operating system left too little funds for worker’s compensation, according to county documents. The glitch since has been fixed, but not before it shorted the program by nearly $190,000.

Earlier this year, the county’s Water Utility department abandoned the costly software program.

Water Utility received permission from commissioners in January to employ CSRA Computer Service at $22,800 to rid it of the Munis software.

“That Munis system was just way too complex for what we’re trying to achieve,” Water Utility Director Billy Clayton said. “We were continually having to whittle on it to fit our mold.”

CSRA Computer Services reverted the department back onto its former operating system, AS400, with some modifications.

Clayton said his office primarily needs a system to calculate utility bills and register payments. Under Munis, he said that task proved too complicated.

A job that once took one person to complete required three with Munis, he said.

And the problems the department had with Munis didn’t end with added workload.

A December audit showed that Water Utility failed to adequately document more than $600,000 in transactions, for which Clayton said Munis is partially to blame.

During the Labor Day weekend last year, some employees at Water Utility had to work to solve a computer glitch. The overtime costs exceeded $2,300.

The county should recoup that costs and more now that two unused support modules will be abandoned.

The maintenance on supporting those modules cost the county $36,000 each year, said county Administrator Scott Johnson in an e-mail.

“These are not even plugged in,” Johnson told commissioners during a recent Management and Financial Services Committee meeting.

Commissioners approved losing the modules Tuesday.

Though Clayton is abandoning Munis altogether and the county is trimming some Munis fat, county Tax Commissioner Kay Allen opted not to get the software at the start.

Allen sought and received permission from commissioners last year to keep her current operating system after hearing stories of poor performance by Munis from other tax commissioners in the state.

“I don’t want to wade in those murky waters,” she said at the time.

A glitch in Munis, purchased by the county from Tyler Technologies for about $2 million, also was to blame for Financial Services sending out some checks last year that were missing bank account and routing numbers.

Despite the issues with Munis, Financial Services Director Leanne Reece said the system has helped her department, and Clayton said his office might one day transition back to the software.

“One of the things (Tyler Technologies) wants to do is come down, sit with us, find out what the problems were ... and why their software was so much more labor intensive,” Clayton said. “If they can make it easier to work with, then I wouldn’t have a problem using it again.”

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