By ANDY MARSO
KHI News Service
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- As the state runs out of money, legislators are running out of patience with a costly computer upgrade that is now almost two years behind schedule.
Lawmakers who sit on the House Appropriations Committee are requesting an audit of the Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System, or KEES, to determine why the system is not fully implemented more than a year after the original target date.
The system is intended to knit together programs that determine Kansans’ eligibility for social services, including Medicaid, for greater efficiency.
The state’s information technology office, which is working with government contractor Accenture, reports having spent $93.5 million on the project.
While much of that is federal funds, Rep. Jerry Lunn, a Republican from Overland Park, asked Rep. Will Carpenter if he had used his role as chairman of a budget subcommittee to question the Kansas Department of Health and Environment about the spending.
“I would like to understand why they’re behind,” Lunn said. “What’s the money gone to?”
“I don’t disagree with you at all,” said Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado.
Carpenter said he had asked KDHE Acting Secretary Susan Mosier those questions and she said testing had revealed some flaws in the system, but a portion should be ready to go live next month.
The original target date for KEES was October 2013.
That date came and went. Glen Yancey, chief information technology officer for KDHE, told legislators a few months later that the system was not ready but he was confident it would be sometime in 2014.
By November 2014 it became apparent that was not the case. In an update to lawmakers, Yancey said the program was close but not ready for full rollout.
Last month he said the agency was still testing the system and declined to give a new target date for rollout. Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican who chairs the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, expressed frustration with the lack of information explaining the continuous delays.
Those frustrations were echoed this week by House Appropriations Committee members, who voted to recommend that the Legislative Post Audit Committee order a comprehensive review of KEES.
Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Republican from Coldwater, said he hoped auditing the program would spur more accountability on future government IT projects.
“I’ve been here five years, and it seems like every one of these IT programs is millions of dollars and then it doesn’t work in the end,” Hoffman said.