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Defections from $1.6-billion computer system upgrading project pose more headaches for Brown

As if a $28-billion budget shortfall was not a big enough headache for new Gov. Jerry Brown, now he is being warned that a massive computer modernization project undertaken by the state is in trouble.

The captain and some of his top officers have jumped ship from the state’s beleaguered computer project, which could delay an effort that had already fallen four years behind schedule and gone up $300 million in cost.

Titus Toyama stepped down as project executive for the $1.6-billion Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal) project, a 12-year effort to replace the state’s antiquated budget and accounting computer systems so they can better interact.

The departure of Toyama to take a job with the state Franchise Tax Board, and the loss of two of his top executives within a few months, could jeopardize the mega-project, warned State Auditor Elaine Howle in a letter Thursday to Brown.

"This loss of the day‑to‑day leadership in such a short period of time is a concern, raising issues of continuity and consistency of the vision for and execution of the project," Howle wrote to Brown.

Howle also warned that plans to use borrowed money to pay for the project may not be legal, and noted some state officials are weighing whether to scale back the massive undertaking. So far millions of dollars have been spent on planning.

Proposed more than four years ago, FI$Cal was originally estimated to take eight years and cost $1.3 billion. The existing systems require employees to go through the time-consuming effort of manually processing data and don't allow agencies to coordinate their purchasing and contracting, state officials said.

-- Patrick McGreevy

 
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