The Nation's Capital's Y2K status : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Well, the good news is that if it wasn't for Federal oversight DC probably wouldn't even have gotten this far... My guess is that the GAO's report due out today will give the city an "F" or a "D"

District Inaugurates New Computer System Software to Offer Better Financial Data

By David A. Vise Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, October 2, 1998; Page B05

The District's financial recovery achieved a crucial milestone yesterday as agencies began using a new, state-of-the-art computerized financial management system, the first overhaul of technology tracking city spending and budgeting in nearly 20 years.

One day after the District recorded an estimated budget surplus of more than $300 million for the 1998 fiscal year, the city started entering data into the new $25 million system, dubbed SOAR -- System of Accounting and Reporting. The new software is designed to give elected officials and others access to better information as they make spending decisions. In addition, the new system will improve the ability of financial officers throughout the government to prevent overspending.

"This is like going from a Model T to a car that is environmentally compliant," said Terry Carnahan, project director for the new system. "Since the inception of the control board, implementation of a new financial system was one of their priorities. You know you had bad financial information."

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Oversight subcommittee on the District, said he was glad that he and other legislators overcame efforts by Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.) to block the city from installing a new system. "It is overdue," Davis said.

More than 1,000 District workers have been trained to use the new system, which was installed over the last year. The entire $25 million was earmarked for software and training. KPMG Peat Marwick, the main vendor, will continue to provide training over the next four years as the financial system is linked to other new systems.

Some improvements will be immediate.

"Bill paying will be much more timely, and the system will do all the processing," Carnahan said. "A lot of forms are gone now because you key the data into screens in the system."

Although its budget is $5.2 billion, the District has been relying on outdated technology to pay bills and monitor spending, with nearly 30 percent of the required information entered into its central system after the end of each fiscal year. The new system will give District officials access to up-to-the-minute spending data, and Carnahan said only minor glitches were reported yesterday as the system went online.

It includes automatic warnings that will be sent to the central budget office and agency officials if people attempt to overspend their budgets. The system can produce financial reports without hours of manual processing, enabling budget analysts to focus on improving services, rather than basic accounting.

"It gives us the tools. What we do with it is up to us," said Budget Director Abdusalam Omer.

Although Carnahan said the new system will address computer problems posed by the year 2000, the federal General Accounting Office is slated to release a report on Capitol Hill today that says that vital city functions could be disrupted unless the District accelerates other automation efforts. Without rapid action, the report warns that:

Due to malfunctions or failures of computer equipment, fire and police departments may be unable to provide timely responses to emergencies.

Payroll, retirement and unemployment insurance systems may not be able to process checks accurately.

Security systems, including alarms, could operate erratically or not at all, putting people and goods at risk.

The GAO report says the city lacked a serious effort to address the year 2000 problem until June, when IBM was hired. "The District is still significantly behind," the draft report says, adding that computers in dozens of departments can read only two digits, such as "98," and may be unable to recognize the date correctly when 2000 arrives.

City officials acknowledge that they will be unable to fix all systems by 2000 and must prioritize their efforts. But some departments, including the court system and housing authority, have refused to participate in the centralized assessment of year 2000 problems, the GAO says.

D.C. financial control board member Darius Mans said the use of strong outside contractors to implement the new financial management system provides a good model for automation improvements elsewhere in the government. Mans said the city is getting a late start on year 2000 issues and warned that "failure to act can lead to all sorts of problems in service delivery."

-- Buddy Y. (, October 02, 1998


I work for an international company that has been working on Y2k since 1996. In April they announced the introduction of a complete, new financial software system to be kicked off in October. It's here, it's all new, and it's compliant. Coincidence?

-- margie mason (, October 02, 1998.

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