Documents show pattern of delays related to DMV system upgrade, promise to launch "bug free"

TOPEKA, Kan. - Legislative documents show a pattern of delays related to the current $40 million statewide upgrade of the Kansas Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles' online system. They also reveal state officials promising the transition would not take place until the new system did not display glitches or "software bugs."

On Friday, customers at the Johnson County DMV experienced the fourth straight day of a long lines and wait times. State officials thanked people for their patience, and admitted the backlog will likely continue into next week.

41 Action News reviewed legislative documents related to the state's $40 million contract with 3M Corporation, awarded back in 2009. The cost is funded through a $4 fee on vehicle registration.

DMV Director Donna Shelite has provided several updates for lawmakers this year about the massive project.

During a February meeting before the Joint Committee on Information Technology , Shelite addressed why the upgrade had not already occurred as planned.

"The project required extensive customization, resulting in coding glitches that caused delays in planned deliverables," Shelite said.

Shelite and other Department of Revenue officials said the system would go live "only when it passes a series of bug-free tests."

Later in February, Shelite testified before the Senate Transportation Committee , again discussing the delay.

"We determined there were a significant number of software bugs that would not allow us to implement the system without a potentially serious impact on county treasurers and our customers across the state," Shelite said. "We are carefully balancing our desire to implement the systems with our insistence on delivering a quality product. We will do both."

Finally in March, Shelite provided an update to the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee . She described project management changes at 3M to attempt to fix the problem.

"We have held firm to the principle that we must adequately test all system functionality prior to the implementation of the new system," she said.

Despite those assurances, state officials immediately noticed a glitch when the new system was first rolled out on Tuesday.

However, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan argued the huge undertaking made some problems unavoidable. He said part of the problem was an overload of customers. Employees trained with the new software for several months, but Jordan said they are also getting acclimated.

"No matter what we did, we were probably going to have a situation like we are facing now with a little bit of an overload and maybe some challenges getting used to the system," Jordan said.

Documents show the contract with 3M was a fixed cost, meaning the delay did not add to the expense for taxpayers. The contract also has an option to assess penalties on 3M for delays, but a Department of Revenue spokeswoman said the state did not plan to exercise that option.

3M spokeswoman Jacqueline Berry said overall, the system upgrade is working well, but the Johnson County office is seeing many of the problems because of high volume. Berry said 3M employees have been on site all week to help resolve the issues.

This is only phase one of the project. The second phase dealing with driver's licenses is expected to launch on August 1.

But it wasn't all bad news.

According to Johnson County Treasurer Tom Franzen, the DMV offices serviced 750 drivers on the first two days and 800 on the third day - even after turning many away in the first few days.

"If you've got a renewal you don't have to come to the office. Don't come to the office. Don't come and clog up the office," Franzen said.

The state encourages people to avoid long waits by renewing online at https:// www.kswebtags.org .

You can also mail your renewal information to Johnson County Motor Vehicle, P.O. Box 29192, Shawnee Mission, KS 66201.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitte r or connect on Facebook.
 

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