The Alabama Board of Adjustment, a little-known government entity within the state is responsible for filling one very specific, very important need: making sure those wronged by the state recieve compensation. According to their website, “Under the Alabama Constitution, the State of Alabama is, in most circumstances, immune from lawsuits seeking monetary damages; consequently, the Board of Adjustment represents the only remedy for individuals or businesses seeking payment for damage done by the State of Alabama.”
State Auditor Jim Ziegler says that most of the claims the board has seen in recent years are due to the states illegal issuing of flawed software. He sued over the contract in a lawsuit recently dismissed by the state Supreme Court on technical grounds that state law currently doesn’t address circumstances like this one.
That hasn’t stopped Ziegler from pointing out the ramifications of the flawed system. In 2018 the state received 1920 claims and only fufilled 1343, paying out just over $14.7 million. However, in 2017 the board recieved 2738 claims, fulling 1934 and shelling out over $40.6 million in the process.
“The reason for this increase was one thing – the flawed “STAARS” software which the Bentley administration bought in violation of state bid laws,” State Auditor Jim Zeigler told Alabama Today. “Not only was the STAARS software bought illegally, it was terribly flawed. State Agencies could not pay their bills. State agencies could not even pay each other.”
The STARRS software was implemented in October of 2015 as a way to process, approve, and repay vendors across the state. Many vendors have not recieved the money owed them, despite the state agencies’ being willing and able to pay them.
Zeigler and the Board of Adjustment heard three claims in July alone in which the vendors have not been paid in over a year, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Zeigler filed a suit against former Governor Robert Bentley, Acting Finance Director Bill Newton, and CGI, the STAARS software vendor in 2016, and after years of litigation the Ivey administration finally cancelled the remainder of the contract.
But Zeigler is still seeking retribution, “my request for restitution to taxpayers from the vendor has been dismissed by the State Supreme Court, My attorneys are now preparing a request for rehearing,” Zeigler told Alabama Today.
“With the STAARS contract canceled, the number of claims has fallen down to previous levels becasue the unpaid bills, are getting paid,” Zegiler continued.