The District government has wasted more than $15 million developing separate computer systems that duplicate each other instead of making it easier for the city to buy equipment, supplies and services, according to a report released yesterday.
The report, which followed a six-month D.C. Council investigation, said the inability to settle on one computer system is slowing the city's effort to improve its dysfunctional $1 billion-a-year procurement operation, which Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the D.C. financial control board and the council have been trying to fix for three years.
The report by the council's Government Operations Committee said that by installing parallel computer systems to deal with procurement matters, D.C. officials have "produced confusion, inefficiency, duplication and waste."
It put much of the blame on the Williams administration and the chief financial officer, saying they allowed both computer systems to be installed even though neither one provides the speed and accounting of purchases the city wants.
"We're spending an enormous amount of money, and we aren't benefiting from it," council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), the committee chairman, said yesterday. She said the D.C. government's plan for an independent, professional procurement operation is "in limbo."
Williams administration officials acknowledged yesterday that the city should not have two systems and pledged to work out a solution this year.
A consultant recently was hired to analyze the procurement management system.
"We didn't have strong program management" in the beginning, said Elliott Branch, the city's procurement officer.
The inability to buy supplies, equipment and services in a timely, planned way at the lowest price was a major reason for the deterioration of the school system and widespread problems in delivering city services during the 1990s.
The report indicated that it still takes nearly four months for a typical contract to be completed, much longer than is usually necessary.
The city spent $500,000 preparing D.C. schools for one of the two systems--which included installing personal computers for use by administrators in all 146 schools--but now is using the other procurement computer system to keep track of school purchases, the report said.
Two years ago, the District awarded a contract, after competitive bidding, to Compusearch Software Systems of Dulles to develop a new system for managing purchasing and contracting.
When glitches slowed installation of the system, the city's chief financial officer--who at the time was Williams--awarded a no-bid contract to KPMG to install a similar system, the report said. KPMG was working with the control board to implement a new financial management system for the city.
The committee report questioned whether KPMG used its ties to the control board "to undo the results of a fair competition" for the procurement management system contract by implementing its own product through the chief financial officer.
KPMG officials said yesterday that they had not seen the council committee's report but that their firm did nothing improper. "KPMG sees no conflict between our contracts with the District of Columbia government or any work our partners are engaged in with the District," said spokeswoman Marcie Odens Peck.
So far the District has spent $13.7 million developing the Compusearch system and about $1.7 million on the KPMG system. But more city agencies use the KPMG system because it is considered more reliable until the other one is fully developed, the report said. Officials had predicted that the Compusearch system would handle about $120 million in transactions a year; only $10 million has been recorded since April.
Neither system has improved purchasing and contracting practices as D.C. officials have envisioned, the report said. The committee urged Branch and Suzanne Peck, the District's chief technology officer, to choose one of the computer systems instead of continuing the hybrid approach.
Branch said he plans to decide whether to keep Compusearch or KPMG, or scrap both and start over. "I'm looking forward to getting this situation resolved," he said.
CAPTION: Mayor Anthony A. Williams's aides say the issue is being addressed.
CAPTION: Council member Kathy Patterson said much is spent for little benefit.