By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Once again, the Alabama Board of Adjustment (BOA) was forced to adjudicate payments from one State agency to another, due to the continued failure of the STAARS accounting system.
At the beginning of the last Legislative Session in 2015, Newton testified before a joint committee on budgeting, assuring lawmakers that STAARS was improving rapidly. Almost eight months later, STAARS continues to fail. The State’s $47 million dollar STAARS accounting software has reached “a new level of dysfunction,” according to State Auditor Jim Zeigler.
Last Wednesday, June 20, the BOA met and tentatively approved three payments from one State agency to another. The BOA hears claims against State agencies because they are immune from court lawsuits, under a constitutional provision. “These three had tried to pay their bills, each owed to the other,” said Zeigler, who votes on the BOA as State Auditor. “They were unable to get the bills paid before the fiscal year ran out, due to the failure of the new STAARS software. ”
While many department heads and agency chiefs have privately complained to Gov. Robert Bentley and Acting Finance Director Bill Newton, only Zeigler has come forward to publicly condemn the failed program.
Last week, Zeigler filed a lawsuit in Montgomery Circuit Court claiming the no-bid contract violates State Bid laws.
The Board heard one case where the Department of Human Resources owed $12,607.04 to the Department of Education, but the STAARS system would not process the bill. The BOA gave tentative approval to the payment at Wednesday’s “consent review.” “This bill was due to the Department of Education on September 30 of last year. It will be almost a year going through the bureaucratic process to the failure of the system” Zeigler said.
The Mental Health Department has owed $40,483.44 to Lake Guntersville State Park since August of 2015, for two large conferences there. “STAARS would not allow payments the park said, Zeigler. “This is just one more reason the State parks have money troubles.”
Also, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency owed $25,247.67 to the Department of Transportation. “This bill was from September of 2015. “This is no way to conduct Stat business,” Zeigler said.
The BOA meets August 23 to vote on final approval of all bills it received this quarter. In May, BOA voted to approve 144 claims, after the STAARS program failed to allow inter-agency payments equaling, $2,219,676.12.
The Board of Adjustment is comprised of Acting Director of Finance Bill Newton, Secretary of State, John Merrill, State Auditor Jim Zeigler and State Treasurer Young Boozer.