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NYC Mayor Demands $600M Refund On Software Project 215

Posted by timothy
from the so-he's-against-economic-stimulus dept.
alphadogg writes "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is demanding that systems integrator Science Applications International Corporation reimburse more than $600 million it was paid in connection with the troubled CityTime software project, a long-running effort to overhaul the city's payroll system. 'The City relied on the integrity of SAIC as one of the nation's leading technology application companies to execute the CityTime project within a reasonable amount of time and within budget given the system's size and complexity,' Bloomberg wrote in a letter Wednesday to SAIC CEO Walter Havenstein. CityTime was launched in 2003 at a budget of $63 million, but costs swelled dramatically as the project stumbled along for nearly a decade."
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NYC Mayor Demands $600M Refund On Software Project

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  • by mr1911 (1942298)
    Because large government programs always run on time and on budget.
    • I was part of a software project for a fairly large city's government that successfully completed early and under budget.

      Maybe that's the equivalent of lightning striking but it does happen at least sometimes.

      • by trout007 (975317)

        Did this city have public unions where your software was threatening their jobs?

    • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drunkle j (824263) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:59PM (#36627602)

      It's about time someone is calling out a company on their massive budget overrun. The SOP of underbidding contracts just to get them, knowing full well that you can just ignore the budget is nothing more than systemic fraud.

      Why they decided to pay $600M and then ask for a refund is a bit perplexing.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What's your point? Holding these contractors accountable for promising more than they can deliver is the first step towards changing that. All government contractors should be sued if they overrun their budgets, otherwise they have no incentive not to.

      • by trout007 (975317)

        Good idea. But the government would have to write one set of requirements and not change them.

    • It's not unique for government. See DNF.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Because large government programs always run on time and on budget.

      Except in this case, it's the private contractor that didn't get the job done.

      In a $600 million contract, there are performance guarantees. This outfit didn't meet them and now they've got to pay up.

      And they say it's the teachers' union that's so overpaid. $600 million for a payroll system?

      This is what happens when you privatize an important function of government. I wonder how much of the federal budget deficit has ended up in the pockets

      • Re:Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mr1911 (1942298) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:44PM (#36628164)

        This is what happens when you privatize an important function of government.

        Nothing was privatized. The government hired a private contractor to do the job. This is how the vast majority of government projects are completed.

        I wonder how much of the federal budget deficit has ended up in the pockets of private contractors who overran costs and then didn't perform up to expectations.

        It depends on how you define overruns. Many government contracts are for projects that are large and complex to the point they cannot be completely defined before the work starts. If the government issues a contract with clauses to cover cost escalations, agrees to the cost escalations, and pays for the escalations, is it not the vendor's fault.

        Bloomberg should be suing his contracting managers. I'm quite sure SAIC did not bill a dime until they had a contract to bill against.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Nothing was privatized. The government hired a private contractor to do the job. This is how the vast majority of government projects are completed.

          No wonder we have a huge deficit.

          If the government issues a contract with clauses to cover cost escalations, agrees to the cost escalations, and pays for the escalations, is it not the vendor's fault.

          It's only the vendor's fault if he does not perform. It doesn't sound like SAIC performed.

          • by Americano (920576)

            No wonder we have a huge deficit.

            This argument only holds weight if we assume that government employees are qualified and capable of managing a project of this size and scope for less money than the private contractors' bid. We have a huge deficit because we keep spending like a piss-drunk sailor, without any regards for how much money the government actually has in its pocket - unless you're arguing that the government could do all of the work it outsources to private firms today for less money in-house,

            • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

              by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday June 30, 2011 @07:44PM (#36629256) Homepage Journal

              This argument only holds weight if we assume that government employees are qualified and capable of managing a project of this size and scope for less money than the private contractors' bid.

              Compare the cost of US military troops in Iraq vs contractor personnel in Iraq.

              If we can handle a moon landing, the invasion of Normandy, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam, and the Manhattan Project, I'm pretty sure we can handle putting together a payroll system.

              Here in Chicago, we had a public parking system that was hugely profitable, convenient and cheap. It was sold to a private company over a year ago to cover a budget shortfall arising out of the real estate crash and now parking fees have gone up 1600%, you are limited to 2 hours (in order to increase violations) and the privately hired enforcement workers are rude, ignorant and obnoxious. Sundays and holidays are no longer free. The situation is so bad that businesses along major streets are suffering because people don't want to deal with it. The public operation was far superior to the private one.

              Oh, and the private outfit that manages parking says they cannot make a profit even with the 1600% increase, so they're going to be raising parking prices yet again. The prices are so high that they had to take out the parking meters and put in these big machines that take credit cards (but not dollar bills). Oh, and the machines are always broken (which does not prevent you from being fined for not paying).

              Governments can certainly handle large, complex projects and do it more efficiently than the private sector. When you take out the 20-100% (minimum) profit margins that privateers add, it's not even close.

              Say, how well are those private space exploration companies doing? I'm sure by now they must have mines set up on Mars.

              Profit is not all it's cracked up to be.

              • by roman_mir (125474)

                Compare the cost of US military troops in Iraq vs contractor personnel in Iraq.

                - excuse me? Since when is a for-profit war supposed to spend less money rather than more money on private contracts?

                Are you suggesting that outfits like Blackwater are not enjoying very close government relations and are not treated like a monopoly and are not cycling the money back to various politicians' campaigns and private hands to be part of that racket?

                If we can handle a moon landing, the invasion of Normandy, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam, and the Manhattan Project, I'm pretty sure we can handle putting together a payroll system.

                - are you saying that all those things were cost-averse? I mean, 'invasion of Normandy' and Moon Landing (which was largely funded by SS money, BTW

      • Sigh. I once wrote a web-based payroll system for a large temp agency. Dozens of offices in six or eight states, so it was no small matter. They even upped the bid to get higher priority in my queue (I had to push back some other projects), and I didn't even walk away with six figures. I guess my integrity outweighs my business sense. $600M indeed.
    • by tyrione (134248)

      Because large government programs always run on time and on budget.

      The irony that you're missing is this is a Private Corporation who can't get it's crap together and complete a Public Works project, on time and within the budget constraints. So much for the private sector. Perhaps we can stop these broad brush strokes and come to reality, by focusing on efficiency and the quality of solution [public or private] in joint partnerships, instead of the same toothless talking points. We call that growing up.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:51PM (#36627492) Journal
    The Honorable Mayor Bloomberg is shocked, shocked, to discover fraud and waste going on here...
  • by MagikSlinger (259969) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:54PM (#36627532) Homepage Journal

    Last time I heard of them, it was with the failed FBI casebook system [wikipedia.org]. Does SAIC have a generally good delivery rate on projects otherwise?

    • by memyselfandeye (1849868) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:56PM (#36627566)

      Nope. But they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night...

      to make sure that thousand dollar escort treated the Senator just right.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:18PM (#36627852)

      Posting Anon, because people of interest may find this page.

      I have worked with 4 SAIC employees/contractors. I found them to be mediocre. However, that's okay, because we needed a mediocre job done, and were going to pay them mediocre money to do it. They performed the job, and testing revealed about the normal amount of bugs (1 per week or so). My experience with them has been they they were astoundingly average, technically.

      However, they were significantly above average in the other parts of the job. They made their software available for regular testing, were timely in delivery of monthly reports, showed initiative in going for above-and-beyond requirements (for extra money), were willing to work with us on emerging requirements, and put together a better-than-average cost estimate. The experience was pleasant overall, and the contract was 5% overbudget, and 10% behind schedule. Being a month late on a one-year project with emerging requirements is acceptable, and mostly our fault.

      I would work with them again, but, in general, I wouldn't trust them to build any system from the ground up, as this requires real skill. Modification or maintenance is about where they belong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've worked there for close to 8 years now (hence posting anonymous). The projects in our division are delivered within days of their deadline and under budget. The clients we have in the military constantly come back to us for work.

      Saying SAIC's performance is "such and such" is kind of funny. When I first joined the company it was privately held by the employees until the founder stepped down and the board rushed to bring the company public. Before it went public, the company was like hundreds of little

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:55PM (#36627544) Journal

    Nothing seems so simple as Time and Attendance software until you to write/consult on/implement Time and Attendance software.

    • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:03PM (#36627664)

      Nothing seems so simple as Time and Attendance software until you to write/consult on/implement Time and Attendance software.

      Would you mind going into more detail as to why? I have to admit, this is one of those things I've always been curious about. It always seemed to me that this should be one of those things that any decent team can crank out in a year, yet I've heard disaster story after disaster story about software like this and so clearly there's something I'm missing here. Is the actual software more difficult to design than I thought, or is it the fact that these are usually government projects, with all the additional requirements therein?

      • by lpp (115405) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:13PM (#36627782) Homepage Journal

        My little company does IT work for small local business, often playing liaison between them and their other vendors. Once I worked with a third party timekeeping software company to help onboard my client onto the system. I was like you, thinking "enter the hours on the day, done". I got to talking with one of the developers and, recognizing there must be some hidden complexity, politely broached the subject. He agreed that yes, it seems simple on the surface, and for a handful of cases it can be. But apparently where things can get bogged down is with adherence to local, state and federal regulations regarding various levels and types of compensation (overtime, sick time, holidays and the like) . He mentioned other issues too but that seemed to be the major bugbear.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by blair1q (305137)

          If you approach the problem with a proper design methodology that generates a thorough set of use-cases before writing the first requirement, the solution falls out of the regs and obvious behaviors.

          And, if you build into that an ability to adapt the system to changing regulations, you've handled the most obvious case, in which regulations change, which they do, continually.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            That's amazing and just plain brilliant! This simple suggestion may well revolutionize the attendance software development industry. I wonder if it could be adapted to other types of software?

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by blair1q (305137)

              It would, since in all the time I've been entering my time into computerized timecard systems it's been painfully apparent that NOT ONE FUCKING CODE MONKEY HAS EVER TRIED IT.

              And yes, I believe that other types of software would benefit from it greatly. They have my permission to use it, without restriction.

          • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @07:42PM (#36629238) Homepage

            If you approach the problem with a proper design methodology that generates a thorough set of use-cases before writing the first requirement, the solution falls out of the regs and obvious behaviors.

            And, if you build into that an ability to adapt the system to changing regulations, you've handled the most obvious case, in which regulations change, which they do, continually.

            To "a thorough set of use-cases before writing the first requirement", that's the most naive, most impractical stupidest thing I've heard, a blurp out of academic void. This is the number one mistake people in software engineering do, believing that this is possible. In fact, good software engineering recognizes this, and what you just suggested is anathema to it.

            Except with the most trivial of cases or in systems that strictly autonomous that interface with physical environments for which you have a model, requirements exist a-priori... ALWAYS.

            We are talking about systems that interface with people, business, and processes (internal and external) governed by law, contractual agreements, human behavior and market forces that can change at any time and for which no model exist (unlike models of physical phenomena.). These can change (and due change) by priorities greater than the ones driving the development of a system.

            And this does not count deadlines to deliver that typically exist to get something going and that are non-negotiable. Yeah, non-negotiable. You can get a legislative deadline to implement something just to be allowed to operate (think HIPAA or SOX), or mandated by business imperatives that can make or break a company.

            And we, software engineers, have to cope with that change because that's what we get paid the big bucks for . With that in mind, it is obvious that it is impossible to do what you suggest: to get a through set of use-cases before writing the first requirement. In fact, many of the requirements and use-cases only become known as progress is made. This is true for any complex system.

            Moreover, it flies in the face of agile development, rapid prototyping, or the older-but-always-good iterative/spiral models.

            You pretty much suggested that we do waterfall. Way to go bro.

        • i had a shift that started on sunday night and ended monday morning.

          our timesheets were constantly screwed up.

          dont get me started on holidays, 'premium hours', overtime thats not really overtime, etc etc etc.

          if any vendor had ever worked one of those types of jobs, they might get it.

        • You can be damn sure the rules from all the various contracts signed by the city had to be implemented and I would not doubt some had to be coded directly instead of relying on a table. I have seen some convoluted attendance rules when working for a rent-a-cop agency where we managed formerly city employees. For most rules you can simply make a simple table, others had so many odd conditions that it was far easier to code a specific routine.

      • I imagine that the willingness of the client to keep writing checks as long as it isn't done may have something to do with it...

      • by trout007 (975317) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:19PM (#36627876)

        I don't have experience with this type of software but I am familiar with how governments work.
        I've designed equipment to automate tasks that were done by government workers. If the software or equipment in any way threatens those jobs they stop you since their contracts give them that right. I've had to dumb down many systems because they were too efficient and required less people. One was designed to position a payload in a rocket. It used to take 20 something people with rulers hanging at the end of a platform calling out the distances. We replaced it with a system that used sensors to relay all of the information back to the control booth and had camera feeds from each location. It provided 10 times the accuracy as before. We couldn't get it approved since it eliminate so many man hours. Wht did we do to get it approved? We installed 20 emergency stop pendants so those people could still be required. By that time the project ran out of money and was canceled. And they kept doing it the old way.

      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        1. The devil is in the details. Every different department has their own rules. Every different union (police, teachers, janitors, etc) has their own rules for vacation, holidays, overtime, etc. Every manager has their own little pet feature they want included, and no one puts a foot and down and says, "no!"

        2. Such projects are always contracted to outside firms, who have absolutely no interest in getting these things done. Not done well, not done on time and in budget, just 'done'.

        They took a $60 M proj

      • by rabbit994 (686936)

        Because every large company/government has special rules and accounting/HR/Whoever wants very detailed data. This group of employees can only get overtime if they worked past 50 hours. That group gets overtime at 40. Third group only gets overtime if they work over 80 hours in two weeks. Fourth group is union with wierd work rules that speculate if they are forloughed, they still get paid 1/2 salary so they need ability to mark that. Some people clock in and you need to include rounding logic in that and di

      • by zentec (204030) *

        Because the larger an enterprise, the greater likelihood that each department has its own attendance and time policies. Start adding in union contracts, and now you're really having fun. I'm sure the garbage collectors in NYC are paid much much differently than the teachers. Each of those examples probably are nightmares on their own with exceptions to rules, bonuses, overtime and penalties for missed lunches.

        However, this is also a case of poor project management. I would not have assigned that job to anyo

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        Well, just clocking in and out seem easy enough, doesn't it? Well, then it turns out, that internal economy requires that you be able to show when you worked on what projects, and the projects all have to be automatically imported from and time detail exported to all of the originating departments and whatever disparate project management software they are running.
        And it just goes downhill from there.
      • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:52PM (#36628272) Homepage

        Usually, if you want just attendance like time in, time out that's not problem. If you start with tracking what they're working on, resource planning or internal/external billing, you're looking for a world of hurt.

        To take one example I got, one company I worked with insisted that sick leave was strictly a matter between the resource manager and that employee, and not for general display. Yet at the same time, they wanted lots of hours worked figures that'd essentially drill down to find the "missing" hours. Project managers were supposed to see what other projects the team was also working on, except if that was sick leave. To "fuzz" the data this had to be mixed with other administrative time so that others couldn't get good statistics on whether they were sick, study day, administrative meetings or whatever. But their immediate manager should of course get to drill down on those. After a lot of back and forth they decided data on an individual basis wasn't needed except in the real T&A system for salary, because we focused on overall project progress and resource planning. Then of course that became silly as project managers realized they had x hours tracked from a department, but not for each person from that department so they didn't know who over/underspent.

        Another good example I have is from financials - wouldn't it be nice if you could staff up a project and have that immediately converted to a budget, then just whatever hardware/software/other costs? Also great for checking billing, one hour worked means we'll expect a bill from the consultant on that amount. Except uh-oh, now everyone who can book a consultant one hour and create a budget can see their rates. Things hard negotiated and best kept secret. The solutions to this were many and varied, but they were all hacks to make fudge numbers one place then real numbers other places and don't mix them up to create a complete mess. Oh yes and secret projects were always interesting, they were supposed to show up in total budgets but not be visible other places, I mean just titles like "Buyout of [foo]" was stock sensitive and complete no-no to see. But people still worked on it and needed to track time somewhere and some people sometimes needed to know what project it really was. The whole logic made you want to strangle someone.

        • by roman_mir (125474)

          Well, this sounds like a complex solution to a no-problem, as the simple solution to this would have been access lists for specific projects and people's time, created on per-project basis. This way you don't need any logic to be in the app, you just allow them to have fine-grained security around pieces of information based on their sign-in credentials and they can screw around with the logic of who is allowed to see what IRL outside of the app itself.

      • by gstrickler (920733) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @06:02PM (#36628376)

        There are a number of factors that bloat and/or doom these projects:

        1. No one person or group of people actually know all the specifications.
        2. Tracking time for vacations, PTO, sick time, personal time, leave of absence, overtime, etc. varies by jurisdiction, and changes over time.
        3. Other specifications may change during development due to legal or corporate policy changes. IRS rulings, FAS rulings, state and federal legislative changes, etc. can all effect the project.
        4. Contracts (especially gov't) aren't usually written to allow for significant changes or variation. Changes require a change request, a change cost estimate, and a change order. Work on the change can't begin until all of that is complete, meanwhile the project either continues without the change, or goes on hold.
        5. They don't hire a really good software architect to design a flexible system, they just design it to the incomplete (and often inaccurate) specs in the RFP/Contract.
        6. The amount of auditing, reporting, and security controls are almost always underestimated.

        So, it's far more complex that it first appears.

        Having said that, $600M is an insane amount. And the 2GB footprint another poster cited is also absurd. A good software architect could have prevented or minimized both of those.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:59PM (#36627606)

    The EULA specifically says that you can't ever, never sue us--for any reason. It also says that this software is not in any way obligated to ever function.

    Hey, you clicked through it.

  • If something's owned by everybody it's owned by nobody, and that's exactly who'll gives a fuck about making it work well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by immakiku (777365)
      That aphorism sounds nice, until you consider how well Wikipedia, Firefox, and LibreOffice are doing.
      • Wikipedia is owned by WikiMedia.
        Firefox is owned by Mozilla.
        LibreOffice is owned by The Document Foundation.

        These groups are committed to long term goals surrounding these projects.

        The consultants and bureaucrats involved with CityTime are committed to taking as much taxpayer money as they can.

        • by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @06:06PM (#36628416)

          Well I'm sure that public projects have boards of individually talented people running them and vested to a degree in their success, and let's not forget that the greatest things we've ever done (sanitation, electricity, the welfare state, insert your own list here, civil engineering mega projects) have been public works.

          I dunno, maybe this project is being run by people better suited to another career, it's certainly too complex to sum up in a sentence or two! The point I failed to make was that public projects seem to sit in special sort of bubble immune to anyone really kicking up a stink about them going wrong. The public peeks in from time to time as if gawking at a train crash where no one they know got hurt, gasps and shakes their head, then promptly forgets about it whilst the whole endeavour churns merrily along sucking up resource and offering no value. I was lamenting how easy it is to write something off as somebody else's problem more than anything.

          I, for one, am very happy to spend 10 minutes writing about this on Slashdot - instead of actually trying to participate.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Firefox just changed to a catch-me-if-you-can model of stability. Wikipedia has errors in the article about the Wikipedia; and what little it has for organizational coherence is owed to limits on who can pwn whom within its ranks. LibreOffice doesn't really know if it exists or if Larry Ellison is just letting them fall to the end of their rope.

        Projects that are led by individuals with clear vision of the problem and the solution get done the way they're supposed to.

        Projects that are led by groups of indi

  • "[New York City] just laid off 500 public school aides who make $18,000 a year, while they’re paying all these [230 software consultants] that are making $400,000 and $500,000 a year for a failed system." http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/26/juan_gonzalez_ny_pays_230_consultants [democracynow.org]
    • by geekoid (135745)

      yep.

      They could have kept those teachers, hired their own in house programmers and got a better software package that they could maintain for decades. Instead they got a poorly installed, poorly documented, software that doesn't meet their specs and at a substantial overrun

      • by AlXtreme (223728)

        They could have kept those teachers, hired their own in house programmers and got a better software package that they could maintain for decades

        But that would have meant that those poor overworked civil servants in charge would actually have to manage an IT project, heaven forbid.

        No, it's much easier to let others do the heavy lifting and simply pay the bills with our money.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:22PM (#36627908) Homepage Journal

    CityTime was launched in 2003 at a budget of $63 million, but costs swelled dramatically as the project stumbled along for nearly a decade.

    - this is the problem with government programs: from the very beginning they are already deep in trouble. It makes no sense that a computer payroll system should start at 63 million, why did it start at that number from the beginning?

    It makes no sense that government should be so large, as to require a computer payroll system that starts as a 63 million project, never mind that anybody getting that contract will make their best to prolong it as much as possible, simply because it IS government and it does not care about costs.

    When somebody says that government can do things efficiently, and they use the postal office as an example, they should really go back to that premise and realize, that the US post office is out of cash - it's selling 'forever stamps' today, and assuming it doesn't just dissolve over the next few years, it won't be able to make any money at that time and it will be in a worse fiscal shape than it is today, because the stamps sold today are basically protection against the 10% (current level) of monetary inflation that US Fed and Treasury are incurring on US population. Today the postal office cannot function already and they sell the forever stamps, tomorrow, they'll have to raise the prices but people will use those forever stamps and the postal office will either have to default on that stamp or dissolve, or there will be another bail out, and people use that as one of 'better' examples of government 'efficiency'.

    Another example they give is Medicare, while not realizing that Medicare costs are spread out among various parts of government that are not calculated into the costs directly, and just like SS, that program is bankrupt today, being the biggest pyramid scams of all times, making Madoff look like a preschooler.

    Anyway, back to this topic - who was the NYC mayor at the time when this ridiculous project started I wonder? Oh wait, Bloomberg has been the mayor of NYC since 2002 and this project started in 2003. So where was he all the time when the costs overran by x2, by x3, by x5, is the magic number for a politician to look at some cost overruns only when they exceed the x10 estimate?

    People blame corporations and businesses for waste and fraud, but at least corporations and businesses have to extract their money from customers (well, unless they are government protected monopolies of-course) by selling products that customers want.

    When business overruns its costs and credits like that, it likely goes under. Shouldn't the same apply to governments? I think it should. And those, who are allowing the money of tax payers to be wasted like that do need to spend some time thinking about in jail. Same should be done on all levels - federal and state and municipal, maybe then the governments will stop bailing out failing businesses and causing massive economic collapses.

    • When somebody says that government can do things efficiently, and they use the postal office as an example, they should really go back to that premise and realize, that the US post office is out of cash

      So it's out of cash yet it started the 2011 fiscal year with $283 million [postalreporternews.net] in net profit? If you can't even get that detail right then one can only imagine that the rest of your rant is wrong as well.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The government does a great many things efficiently, and substantially cheaper then private industry. Usually large infrastructure and big RnD projects.

      You clearly have never been involved in a project like this, they take years to get done, are complex and you might not even KNOW you have a cost overrun until the company presents you with a bill with a lot of previous years add-ons suddenly appearing. usally right after the point where rolling back isn't practical anymore. THIS is a corporation abusing it'

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        The government does a great many things efficiently, and substantially cheaper then private industry. Usually large infrastructure and big RnD projects.

        - oh yeah, how well does this statement bode with this one exactly:

        complex and you might not even KNOW you have a cost overrun until the company presents you with a bill with a lot of previous years add-ons suddenly appearing. usally right after the point where rolling back isn't practical anymore.

        ....

        I've been through many of these projects on both sides of the fence.

        Speaking from the both sides of your mouth, I see.

    • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:53PM (#36628280) Homepage

      Anyway, back to this topic - who was the NYC mayor at the time when this ridiculous project started I wonder? Oh wait, Bloomberg has been the mayor of NYC since 2002 and this project started in 2003. So where was he all the time when the costs overran by x2, by x3, by x5, is the magic number for a politician to look at some cost overruns only when they exceed the x10 estimate?

      People blame corporations and businesses for waste and fraud, but at least corporations and businesses have to extract their money from customers (well, unless they are government protected monopolies of-course) by selling products that customers want.

      BTW, from TFA but not included in the summarys:

      The recent indictment of SAIC's leader project manager on the CityTime job, Gerard Denault, as well as the guilty plea to criminal charges made by SAIC systems engineer Carl Bell, who designed the software, are "extremely troubling and raise questions about SAIC's corporate responsibility and internal controls to prevent and combat fraud," he added. Denault and Bell were charged with were charged with taking kickbacks, wire fraud and money laundering.

      Also recently indicted were Reddy and Padma Allen, a couple who head up New Jersey systems integrator TechnoDyne, which was SAIC's primary subcontractor on the CityTime project. Federal authorities allege that the Allens and others conducted an elaborate overbilling and kickback scheme that siphoned millions of dollars from the project.

      Federal authorities have also contended that SAIC had received a whistleblower complaint about the project as far back as 2005, Bloomberg said in the letter. "It is unclear what SAIC did at that time to investigate these serious allegations."

      And Bloomberg is a billionaire. He's not some ivory tower academic or career politician. He's supposed to know better.

      I worked for a small company that was bought by a slightly less small company which was then gobbled up by SAIC. Anyone who didn't have their life savings wrapped up in the venture from starting the original small company got the heck out of there.

    • by devent (1627873)

      No that is the problem with corruption. And the fault of corruption in a democracy are the people.

      "When business overruns its costs and credits like that, it likely goes under. Shouldn't the same apply to governments? I think it should"

      Ok, so are you prepared to get a gun and shoot everyone or get shot down? Are you prepared the next time that there is a fire that half of the city goes down in flames? Are you prepared that if you got an accident you need to walk home, lay down and die?

      I know you are most li

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        No that is the problem with corruption. And the fault of corruption in a democracy are the people.

        - government must exist only because if it does not, something will appear to occupy that roles, so it's better to have a known quantity of evil, than something that will just spur out of vacuum. But because it is a necessary evil, it must be controlled and only be allowed to do the bare minimum, so that it can only destroy very little of society by its mere fact of existence.

        Ok, so are you prepared to get a gun and shoot everyone or get shot down?

        - well, sure, but that's not the point. The point is that government should not be as big as it is, it must be very small and very

    • When somebody says that government can do things efficiently, and they use the postal office as an example, they should really go back to that premise and realize, that the US post office is out of cash

      The post office ran effectively for hundreds of years breaking even or making a modest profit. Only in the past few years have they faced major financial problems, which isn't surprising considering that the past couple of decades have seen huge social changes shifting snail mail to email, shifting bills
      • by roman_mir (125474)

        The post office ran effectively for hundreds of years

        - not without government subsidies, explicit or implicit.

        Or do you not consider a monopoly that US post office has upon first class mail delivery a subsidy and a government guaranteed protection of income?

        If turning a profit was the most important aspect of the post office, then small town america wouldn't have post offices at all.

        - again, not true. If that was the case there wouldn't have been a need for government protection against competition in mail delivery, wouldn't it?

        The point is that a market need and a market supply will find a way to meet, but in presence of overwhelming government power they do not.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @05:28PM (#36627994) Homepage Journal

    Yes, I have actually worked in this field. And yes, payroll is more complicated than it seems on the surface. But it's not that complicated. It's not "I can build a dozen F-14s for less" complicated.

    The money spent on these types of applications is just obscene. There's gotta be major corruption in the procurement process. And it's everywhere; this isn't just a NYC problem.

    • You know, this seems to be par for the course with government contracts, and I've honestly never understood why. If my company contracts another company to do Job X for $Y million in Z months/years/whatever, that's a legally binding contract. If they go over budget, or don't deliver on time, or don't do the job they were supposed to do, we don't pay them. Why does the government? Is it because they can just ship it off to the taxpayers? Are they in bed with the companies bidding on the contract and get
      • Are they in bed with the companies bidding on the contract and getting lots of hookers and blow?

        Does this answer your question?

        The city official who was the project's point person, Joel Bondy, resigned in December and had close ties to the suspected mastermind of the scheme.

        Gerard Denault, a former executive with Science Applications International Corporation, the company overseeing CityTime, was charged with receiving over $5 million in kickbacks for his work as the project's senior manager.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/28/nyregion/criticism-for-citytime-project-grows-as-a-manager-is-arrested.html? [nytimes.com]

      • As others have pointed out, it's not hard to imagine this scenario..."Ok, it's been Z years - z months and we know you're nearly done, but we *need* to change requirements A, B and C. We need these changes so badly that we're willing to pay an additional $y million and for the project to run for another Z years." Also, some of the people involved have been siphoning millions off the project. I don't know if they used that to pay for hookers and blow.
    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      What you usually find in these situations is that there is a defined scope of work and deliverable at the set price. Then every month the client (the city in this case) alters the scope of work which requires that the budget be adjusted. By the end of the day after everyone in the entire client organization has made sure all the changes they want are incorporated the original deadline passed 3 years ago, the developer has been chasing dead ends for entire time and to impliment the new final scope of work is

  • that it is commonly believed that specifying software is easy. It is very hard even for smart people and to my mind should be avoided if at all possible. What NYC should have done was to find a payroll system they liked, perhaps had it tweaked a little by the vendor where there were irreconcilable differences and then changed their own payroll practices to fit the capabilities of the software. As others have said, it's not as if New York is the only state with a payroll to process.
    SAIC make their living out
  • by geekoid (135745)

    Too many times contractors will get to a position where they become entrenched and start raising the cost, changing the contract, and never having the intention to actually meet the agreed time and price.

    Then politician don't sue because they are afraid it might hurt their image.

    We need more public official to call these companies on there shenanigans.

  • What SAIC did was morally wrong, BUT I am certain there were a lot of people involved in that project that allowed this to happen. One would assume that the New York City government is not being run by a bunch of ignorant hicks paying top dollar for a pig-in-a-poke. There is plenty of culpability to go around, and some city officials need to be investigated.

    • 1. Contract with a clueless city government to build an uber complex software project.
    • 2. Drag the project out so they have time to want to change things.
    • 3. ???
    • 4. PROFIT!
  • Due to union contracts and city regulations, they had to account for leap seconds for anyone who worked overnight. Future of UTC and the Leap Second [slashdot.org]

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