Legislators Threaten to Eliminate State IT Agency Over DVS Mess

The geniuses that recently named Minnesota the best run state clearly never had a run-in with Driver and Vehicle Services. The public and political impatience with the beyond embarrassing breakdown of DVS’ new and not-so-improved MNLARS vehicle registration system came through loud and clear in the Pioneer Press account of a legislative oversight hearing this week.

When will the problems plaguing Minnesota’s vehicle registration system be fixed?

No one would say Thursday, amid repeated questioning from frustrated state lawmakers, one of whom suggested that the state’s entire IT department be dismantled and those who worked on the system be purged from state employment.

State officials said they’re working on coming up with an answer.

“Can you give us any idea?” asked Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, one of several lawmakers to rephrase the same basic question. “Is it six months out? A year out? Two years out?”

The $93 million system was unveiled by the Department of Public Safety last July, years behind schedule and tens of millions of dollars over budget. Months later, thousands of Minnesotans continue to experience weeks and longer delays in what should be the simplest of tasks–renewing license tabs, transferring titles and the like.

The backlog for processing titles totals more than 300,000 vehicles, including more than 23,000 that the system cannot process as currently designed. In fact, state bureaucrats still can’t say when, if ever, MNLARS will be up and running right.

Joan Redwing, the state’s chief enterprise architect assigned to Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) — the state’s information technology department — didn’t give an answer he was looking for.

Redwing said the team is working on a “road map’ for how to fix the $93 million system, known as MNLARS, and that road map will have a timeline for fixing the problems, which have persisted since its launch in July.

“We are working on a release … it’s important that we take the time to coordinate a road map,” she said. “We need to make sure it’s been properly vetted. … We do have a draft document, but I can’t issue draft documents that will change.”

Whenever that day comes, it may be too late, as far as some key legislators are concerned.

State Sen. Scott Newman, a Republican from Hutchinson who chairs the committee, chuckled in frustration at the lack of clarity from Redwing.

“So far I haven’t heard much of anything of a definite answer to anything,” he said. “So far I have heard ‘I don’t know’ and, to be candid, evasive answers.”

…Then Newman said this:

“I would be amazed if we do not see legislation come forward in this session that will either eliminate or greatly change the state agency we know today as MNIT.”

Saying the agency’s credibility had been “completely lost,” he added: “I am going to be extremely reluctant to give any more money until the people who are involved in this project are no longer employed by the state of Minnesota.”