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An efficiency report published nearly two years ago predicted problems with a costly statewide accounting system – and proposed reforms aimed at avoiding a costly disaster.

Unfortunately its advice was not heeded, and now hundreds of bugs are being reported as this flawed system continues to suck up hundreds of thousands of tax dollars each month – all without even starting the job it was created several years ago to do.

The South Carolina Enterprise Information System (SCEIS) was originally created to consolidate the state’s accounting and payroll software, but it instead appears to have devolved into a decade-long case study of inefficient, ineffective and unaccountable government bureaucracy.

Surprise, surprise.

The last time the system received any scrutiny whatsoever was in the GEAR Report – which was published in July 2007.

“There are significant questions to be answered,” the GEAR report said of SCEIS, before launching into a detailed critique of its excessive costs, lack of oversight and constantly-delayed time line.

Specifically, the GEAR report recommended that the program be reviewed by independent contractors (not state bureaucrats) if it missed a key November 2007 deadline – which of course it did.

Unfortunately, no such independent oversight has followed.

Planned since 1999 and formally authorized in 2001, the SCEIS has been a typical government boondoggle.

Tens of millions of dollars have been poured down the drain on faulty programs and missed deadlines, and no one seems to be accountable for any of it.

Can anybody say “clueless?”

Obviously, the creation of a unified accounting platform for state government is a common sense goal – and an understandably expensive one.

Sometimes saving money costs money, and those costs are worth absorbing if there are long-term efficiencies to be had.

But that’s not a license to be slack and wasteful – as SCEIS has been.

Some estimates are that the program has already sucked up as much as $85 million – even though it has yet to produce a working system.

It has also gone through three different directors in the past two years.

After numerous delays, the first round of state agencies are supposed to go “live” with SCEIS this coming November – with the rest of state government to come online in November 2010.

Agencies included in the initial rollout are the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Mental Health, which has already participated in a “pilot” trial of the software that one agency employee described to FITS as “a disaster.”

In addition to its implementation costs, thousands of hours have been spent training employees at these different agencies on the new software, which is reportedly so full of bugs that one programmer said “we need to call the Orkin Man.”

But that’s just the problem with a lack of independent oversight – there is no Orkin Man to call.

Also of interest to taxpayers is this little nugget – almost a decade after touting its “cost-saving potential” there has been absolutely no effort by state government to identify a single dollar of taxpayer savings associated with this project, or to rebate that money back to the State Treasury.

That’s particularly troubling seeing as SCEIS could end up costing $100 million before it performs a single financial calculation.