LAO releases report on FI$Cal project, says benefits outweigh the costs

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan budget analyst for the Legislature, today released a report on the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal) project recommending it continue forward, despite the state’s ongoing budget deficit. In addition to the benefits of having a modern and integrated accounting system, FI$Cal will allow the state to avoid having to replace aging, individual systems in the future, says the report linked here, with the LAO’s summary in italics below.

Last week, the Bureau of State Audits reported that the system will cost an estimated $1 billion less than originally projected.

The FI$Cal project recently completed a procurement and selected the vendor who will build FI$Cal, the state’s single, fully integrated financial information system. Project staff has submitted several documents to the Legislature, including a special project report that updates the project plans, a report to the legislature that includes information on the procurement, and a budget request for $89 million ($54 million General Fund) and 86 new positions in order to begin the first year of system development. This report (24 pages): (1) provides an extensive background on the project; (2) describes the innovative procurement process that state staff conducted to secure vendor services to build the FI$Cal system, including information on the procurement results; (3) reviews the FI$Cal project plans as explained in project documents; and (4) analyzes features of the project’s proposed plans and offers recommendations to the Legislature as it considers the budget request and the future of the system. Based upon our analysis of the proposed plans and review of project status, we believe that the benefits of proceeding with FI$Cal development at this time outweigh the costs of the project. In addition to the inherent benefits derived from having a modern, fully integrated financial information system for the state, proceeding with FI$Cal would also avoid substantial costs associated with replacing various individual financial management systems over the next several years. However, we recognize the tight budget times requiring the Legislature to make difficult decisions regarding programmatic reductions. Therefore, should the Legislature wish to proceed with the project, we offer alternative funding options that reduce the state’s reliance on General Fund monies to pay for the project in the short term. These options include the state’s GS $Mart loan program, vendor financing, and advanced payments from the special funds for the first few years of system development. Additionally, we point out ways the project’s change management and staffing plans to implement FI$Cal statewide could be improved to reduce risk and maximize project benefits.

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