Unemployment Problems Highlight State's Outdated Technology
Speaker 1: 00:00 The massive failure of California's unemployment insurance program during the pandemic has highlighted yet. Again, the state's outdated technology, billions of dollars were lost to fraud as people in need of help waited weeks for relief. But despite these public failings, or maybe because of them, there's a push at the highest levels of state government to change how California goes about procuring and updating its technology. [inaudible] Katie or reports. Speaker 2: 00:28 The news reports on the size and scope of the unemployment fraud at the employment development department were jaw dropping at least $11 billion in fraudulent claims, paid to crime rings and incarcerated people. This is just the tip of the iceberg. More than $500,000 in unemployment benefits went to a group of prisoners, including two serving life sentences, according to orange. But this is hardly the first high-tech meltdown. The state has experienced. Some of California's largest agencies rely on a 60 year old computer programming language for some of their operations, including EDD, the DMV and Medi-Cal fee for service program so-called legacy systems. Assemblyman David Chiu has served on the assembly budget committee for six years. He says efforts to modernize. These systems tend to go off the rails. Speaker 3: 01:21 As legislators. We are often asked to approve tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars on top of budgets that have been blown projects that are years behind in being completed. Speaker 2: 01:36 One of the largest culprits is fiscal, which is supposed to improve the state's financial management. The original $138 million budget has grown to about 10 times that amount. And the completion date has been pushed out by more than 10 years. Choose says lawmakers are often put in tough positions when dealing with half done projects. Speaker 3: 01:57 From my perspective, the legislature generally acquiesces to the incremental budget requests where we continue to throw good money. After bad Speaker 2: 02:09 Tongue knows she's facing a lot of skepticism from lawmakers she's California's chief information officer and director of the department of technology. And Tom says the state has become a lot more transparent about its it failures. We're out front. We're not like saying, Oh, and the odd problem we own it we'll fix it. We'll keep moving. That is a culture shift. The department has laid out its goals and its vision 2023 strategic plan, which includes delivering fast and secure public surfaces and making common technology easy to use across government Tong says the state also recognizes that overhauling an entire system at once isn't practical. So no more a big ribbon or replace a big system because when you do that, imagine the retraining it's awful. Instead she says something manageable. Speaker 4: 03:00 Let's take a look. What are the big things you need to do, but doing it in a more modular manner. And then you can do a lot quicker. Speaker 2: 03:06 A key part of this new strategy is a change in how California procures its technology in 2019, governor Gavin Newsome signed an executive order, implementing a new procurement system instead of the state telling vendors, what it needs and how they should get there. Tom says, California is trying a new approach of presenting a specific problem to vendors. Speaker 4: 03:29 Tell me what idea you can bloom forward in solving that and demonstrate to me how you would solve that. So that's the two step process that we have implemented Speaker 2: 03:40 This new method. Won't help with the current EDD mess. And while it's been shown to work on smaller projects, it hasn't yet been proven when it comes to updating legacy systems, but as more departments move toward upgrading their technology, the state will soon see whether this latest approach helps bring California into the future or ends in another expensive it mess I'm Katie or in Sacramento.