DMV Computer Debacle Ends, But State Still Out Millions | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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DMV Computer Debacle Ends, But State Still Out Millions

Local Matters Year-End Update


Published December 26, 2012 at 8:53 a.m.

Jan 18: In January, Seven Days broke the bad news that a Department of Motor Vehicles computer project was millions over budget and years behind schedule. Development of the DMV’s new VT DRIVES system had been plagued by what Commissioner Robert Ide called catastrophic code problems; only 10 percent of the system was functional. The state had spent $18 million to upgrade its 40-year-old database with one that updates driver data in real time. But after six years, the DMV had almost nothing to show for it.

Ide said the state’s only recourse might be to sue the company building the system, Hewlett-Packard, which inherited the job after acquiring Electronic Data Systems — the tech company founded by Texas billionaire Ross Perot that bid on and got the Vermont contract.

Update: Two weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the state had terminated its contract with HP as a result of the failed system. The settlement agreement stipulates that HP will refund the state $8.37 million, and the state will return to the company physical and virtual rights to all software and documents created by HP. While the $8.37 million reimburses the state for everything it paid to HP, state taxpayers are still out $5 million for DMV staff time and expenses plus $2.3 million paid to other vendors who worked on the system. The remaining $2.7 million represents the amount spent on HP components that are usable.

“There comes a point in time where you realize you’re out a lot of money and the project is going nowhere,” says Ide, adding that getting some money back was “better than going forward and losing 100 percent.”

Meanwhile, the DMV has reverted to using its decades-old “legacy” computer system while the agency evaluates its options, according to Ide. Maybe the DMV should hire Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling to design a modern system. He did it for the Queen City. Word has it he’s a programming whiz.