Fulton officials cite progress on IT problems

Read a copy of consultant Accenture’s report on the Fulton County Information Technology at myajc.com.

Nearly nine months after auditors found Fulton County’s Information Technology Department mismanaged millions of dollars in contracts, county officials say they have corrected most of the problems.

Auditors cited poor oversight of vendors, possible ethics and purchasing violations and other concerns. But after taking steps to address those problems, County Manager Dick Anderson says he’s now focused on broader challenges facing the department, including basic IT infrastructure, security and management problems. He says overcoming those problems will be critical to his efforts to make Fulton County more efficient and effective.

“We have plenty of work to do,” Anderson said in an interview this week.

Anderson checked a big item off his to-do list Wednesday, announcing a new leader to run the department. Sallie Fulsom Wright, the former deputy chief information officer for Georgia State University, began her job as Fulton's CIO this week. She's the first permanent CIO since the county fired Maurice Ficklin last October – he says for blowing the whistle on the department's problems.

Wright inherits a department that has come under intense scrutiny since last year, when an audit revealed it mismanaged millions of dollars' worth of contracts. Among other things, the audit found cozy relations between IT employees and vendors, excessive salaries for some contracted employees and a general failure to adequately monitor contracts, making it hard to tell whether vendors were performing the work they were paid to do.

A second audit last spring found the department may have skirted purchasing rules by awarding one company a series of contracts worth just under the $50,000 threshold that would have required the work to be opened up for competition. The audit found another company overbilled the county by more than $125,000.

IT officials disputed some of the findings, but pledged to improve monitoring of contracts and address other problems. Anderson said much of that work has been done.

The price has been steep. In June the county agreed to pay more than $1.5 million for Microsoft software licenses it was using but hadn't paid for – a problem highlighted in one of the audits. It also agreed to pay consultant Accenture up to $595,000 to take a broader look at IT operations.

Accenture released its first report last month. It found the department lacking in nearly every area examined, including security, workforce and resource management and basic IT infrastructure.

A second report, due in a few weeks, will include priorities for improvement. A third and final report – including specific recommendations– will come this fall.

Anderson plans to use new technology to improve government efficiency and customer service. A taste of that future came recently when Fulton unveiled a smart phone app that allows residents to report code enforcement and other problems.

County Commissioner Joan Garner, who requested the audits, said she’s pleased with the progress Anderson has made.

“I feel comfortable we are on the right track toward addressing the issues that were raised in the audit,” Garner said.