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HomeNewsArchivesGovernment's New Finance System Could Be the Grinch That Steals Christmas

Government's New Finance System Could Be the Grinch That Steals Christmas

Dec. 1, 2006 – It could be a dismal holiday season for many Virgin Islanders if problems with the territory's new financial management system are not solved. Few if any checks have been issued to vendors since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year; and at least one vendor has had to borrow money from a friend to stay afloat.
"Typically this person would never have to borrow money," said the person who loaned the money, wishing to remain anonymous.
No one on either the government or vendor side was willing to talk on the record for fear of reprisal or, in the case of vendors, of being put at the bottom of the list when the money starts flowing again.
Sources say the interface between various modules of the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System don't work.
It is a complicated process, and with no officials willing to speak, the Source could only ascertain that the problem seems to lie between the Office of Management and Budget's allocation and budgeting function and the ability of various departments to access or interface with OMB.
Without a budget or allocation in place, the system does not allow agencies to input and process payments to vendors.
"And we can't override the system," one person said.
A source at OMB said accounts payable personnel can go directly to the Finance Department to process payments, however. But many cannot work from their own computers.
The contract between the V.I. government and Tyler/Munis for the software was made public with much fanfare in January (See "Government Officials Say New System Will Bring Efficiency").
Tyler Technologies provides MUNIS software designed specifically for public-sector use. According its website, "Tyler Technologies' MUNIS Division provides an ERP solution that includes Financial, Payroll/HR, Revenue and Productivity applications to local governments, school business offices, authorities, utilities and not-for-profit agencies."
Though the accounts payable portion of the software was switched on Oct. 1, and the old system was shut down, payroll continues to function on the old system.
"The problem is they didn't run a parallel program," one knowledgeable source said. "They just shut down the old system."
The question remains, who exactly is "they?"
Some sources want to lay the blame at the feet of the Finance Department. Others say it is OMB. But for vendors who have been waiting months for payment, blame is not the issue. Getting paid is. Another problem with the new system, one vendor noted, is since old-fashioned vouchers are no longer used, the checks that are issued don't bear the vendors' invoice numbers. "We could spend weeks trying to figure out what invoice the checks are for," one vendor said. "And if the amounts are wrong, (as was the case with the only check the vendor has received since Oct. 1) we'll never find out what it applies to."
Danelle Daley, vice president of implementation for Tyler Technologies, in a phone interview Friday afternoon, said the software was not the problem.
"There is absolutely no reason that vendor payments can't be made," she said, adding, "The application is up and running and checks are being cut."
Daley speculated that the problem could be in the networking between the various government offices. She said that was not part of Tyler's contract. She said as far as she knew, the networking was not being "outsourced" but rather was being handled internally.
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull did not return calls made to her office Thursday and Friday. Ira Mills, director of OMB, also did not return calls, though someone from his department did call back. She said Mills would ask Turnbull to call the Source.
One person said attempts were being made to get the outstanding invoices to vendors paid, but it was slow going. "I think they are issuing checks everyday," they said.
With no one speaking officially, though a meeting was held to address the issue this week, it is anybody's guess when the money will start flowing into the local economy again — and whether it will make it in time for Christmas shopping.
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