After probe finds payroll failures, Robert Bentley announces state software upgrades

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The office of Gov. Robert Bentley said late last week it’s relaunching the state’s “Open Alabama” online platform, after an investigation revealed thousands of state contractors have received late payments.

Open Alabama – “the state’s online checkbook” in gubernatorial parlance – had not been updated since the beginning of the 2016 fiscal year in October after falling into arrears regarding hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments to vendors.

Bentley said Friday the re-launch was part of a broader regime to upgrade state transparency tools called the State of Alabama Accounting and Resource System, or STAARS, and that there would be no disruption in the data available to the public.

“Open Alabama is an important transparency tool that allows taxpayers to view the financial operations of government,” Bentley said in a prepared statement.

“Now that the upgrade of our archaic financial software is being implemented, the result is a significant improvement in the way state government handles business. State agencies have received regular monthly updates on the implementation process since April 2014, and have worked well together on the upgrade,” Bentley added.

The governor said he and the Legislature recognized a “dire” need to retool the state’s payroll system in 2013.

That recognition helped lead to SB 117 sponsored by Republicans Rep. Ken Johnson of Moulton and State Sen. Phil Williams of Rainbow City, which established a Secretary of Information Technology to implement a new plan to coordinate the purchasing, management and use of IT systems across the state, according to the governor’s office.

Administration officials blamed the oversights on an outdated regime the governor inherited when he took office in 2011.

“The legacy version of the software has been an impediment for standardizing and modernizing our business processes for decades,” Alabama Secretary of Information Technology Brunson White said. “The new … system will set the stage for making the day-to-day business of government more effective and efficient.”

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