Ex-Contracter Slams State Government Incompetence

The Dayton administration wants Minnesotans to believe that throwing millions more taxpayer dollars at the failed new $93 million MNLARS state vehicle and registration system would solve everything. But a former MN.IT employee writing in the Star Tribune warns some things about state government never change.

More than 20 years ago, I was recruited to a state agency to lead the development of a pilot project within the Minnesota’s IT Support Services division. This is the same division responsible for the $93 million Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) fiasco. I left five years later exasperated with the inefficiencies and mismanagement I witnessed. A colleague confided that he was too close to retirement to leave but that anyone younger would be wasting their time and skills to stay.

I witnessed a group of five IT professionals be hired then wait at their desks for three weeks for their computers to be delivered. No one had ordered their computers until they walked through the door. Salaries paid while drinking coffee.

OK, that was then. This is now. Surely state government must have gotten with the times and become more efficient, responsive and accountable to taxpayers. Not so fast, the recovering government contractor, Shelia Miller, cautions.

Certainly, you think, much would have changed in 20 years, but more recently I worked for an organization that’s regulated by a different state agency. Several years ago, in an effort to increase the rigor of its enforcement, the agency introduced a lengthy form to be completed by the many organizations it regulates. The form couldn’t be completed by computer, because the agency personnel said they didn’t know how to create an electronic form. They advised that the form could be handwritten or typed — as in with a typewriter. At the time, the young administrative professional who worked with me said she’d never even used a typewriter! “Where would you find one? ‘Antiques Roadshow’?” So she converted the state’s form into an electronic form, and we provided it to the agency on a thumb drive. The agency declined to use it because it might transmit a virus into the state’s computer system. So we offered to walk agency staff members through the simple process of creating an electronic form. They declined.

The good news is that the unnamed state agency has produced a new form. The bad news? There’s still no electronic version available. No wonder the author retired.