By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The State Department of Finance will miss its 13th Accounting Period Deadline because the $47 million dollar software program known as STAARS has maxed-out its user capacity according to State Comptroller Tom White. “Due to STAARS system capacity and ISD user identification issues, agencies have not been able to access and/or enter a large volume of 13th AP or current year transactions. This has affected all agencies ability to enter and approve transactions,” wrote White in a Nov. 5 memo.
In layman’s terms the system is overloaded and users cannot log-in. By-the-way, the fix is that State employees must work extra hours and holidays.
The statewide accounting program purchased under a suspect no-bid contract according to users has never worked as promised and the cost of correcting systemwide problems has led to emergency funding to keep it working. “STAARS normal work day hours have been expanded to 6 AM – 8 PM until further notice,” White notified state workers. He also said that the system would be available during the upcoming, “Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, including a fully functional nightly cycle.”
In May, Chief Examiner Ron Jones warned that the STARRS accounting program would likely cause the State to be delinquent on its federally-required Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). In a letter dated May 4, Jones wrote, “As you may be aware, the State has experienced significant issues in implementing the new accounting system, STAARS. These issues have impacted the State’s ability to generate financial statements and to prepare the State’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).”
He also cautioned, “Please be aware that federal agencies do not currently grant audit extension requests and may issue sanctions or other penalties for failures to submit timely single audit packages. We will make every effort to complete the State-Wide Single Audit as soon as practical after the completion of the State’s CAFR.”
STAARS, The brainchild of former Acting Finance Director Bill Newton and his associate Rex McDowell continues to cost more time and money, according to recent memos.
Governor Robert Bentley was advised over a year ago about the troubles with the system, but ignored advice given and instead doubled down on the incompetence that led to the systems continual headaches.
When State lawmaker’s questioned Newton about STAARS in the joint legislative hearing last year, he assured them the system was coming online quickly. Almost a full year has passed in which State resources have been wasted.
Bentley and those around him persist in their defense of STAARS, while keeping the Legislature in the dark.