By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, December 9, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler commented on the software scandal that was first revealed by the Alabama Political Reporter’s Bill Britt on Tuesday.
State Auditor Zeigler said in a statement, “We have known for some time that the Bentley administration had major internal problems, but we really did not know just how bad those are. Now, they have become dysfunctional. The new State financial software does not work. It has not worked in months, and they have hid that fact. The State’s bills are not being paid. Tens of thousands of bills.”
Zeigler said, “I wish this software was under my authority. Those who do have authority are fiddling while Montgomery burns.”
The State has fallen behind in paying its debts because the $47 million software package the state has purchased from CGI, has failed…..and failed in a spectacular fashion. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) reportedly has approximately 23,000 vendors who have not been paid on time. Even the state attorneys’ Bar Association memberships have lapsed because of the State’s non-payment.
While businesses and corporations who do business with the State of Alabama are weeks (and in some cases months) behind in their payments and are charging the State interest on the past due balances, CGI reports that they have made $978 million (after taxes) on revenues of almost $10.3 billion (in Canadian dollars). CGI’s CEO is Michael E. Roach. Stock in the company is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under GIB.A and on the New York Stock Exchange under GIB. CGI is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec but has offices around the world, including in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Troy. CGI made headlines when the Health Insurance Exchange system it designed for the federal government’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (popularly referred to as Obamacare) crashed under the load of Obamacare’s rollout.
The Auditor’s office was intended by the writers of the state’s 1901 Constitution to be an independent watchdog over state government; but in 1939 the state legislature took the auditing function away from the auditor and placed it under the Examiner of Public Accounts, which answers directly to the state legislature. The Auditor’s office oversees inventories of the State’s physical property.
The decision to purchase the expensive and overly complex software was reportedly State Finance Director Bill Newton’s. The State Finance Office is reportedly working on fixing the problem with the failed software.
Zeigler said on Tuesday, “We are putting in new safeguards against loss. The word is spreading that there is a new Auditor in town and that we are serious about being better stewards of the taxpayers’ property.” Zeigler ran for Auditor saying he had, “A plan to turn the State Auditor’s office into a strong monitor of how tax dollars are used in Montgomery.”
The State Auditor is responsible for inventorying each item of State property worth $500 or more. Typical items are computers, vehicles, and machinery.
Zeigler has hinted that he could possibly consider a run for Governor in 2018.