Special Reports

IBM to check Tacoma system

IBM Business Consulting Services is the best company to examine Tacoma’s new computer system, a city selection committee has concluded.

The company was chosen over four others that submitted proposals to conduct a three-part examination of the city’s SAP computer system.

If the City Council agrees, Tacoma could enter into a contract with IBM by the end of June and work could then begin on the audit, which is intended to find out what works and what doesn’t work – and how the city can get the most value from the system.

A final report is expected by mid-October. The review could cost as much as $227,000.

Tacoma spent more than $50 million installing the computer system, which went live in late 2003. It was supposed to make city government more efficient, but it has frustrated users, cost more than expected and forced the city to hire more people. By the end of this year, the cost of installing and operating the system is expected to reach $74 million.

The News Tribune documented problems with the system in a four-part series published in February, and the state auditor blamed the system for creating weaknesses with the city’s financial controls.

The auditor’s office and the paper’s editorial board both recommended an independent review of the system.

IBM was the clear choice of the selection committee, Linda McCrea, a member of the committee, said Wednesday at a meeting of the City Council’s Government Performance & Finance Committee.

Only two of the five companies, IBM and Moss Adams LLC, submitted proposals for all three parts of the examination.

IBM’s proposal was more expensive than Moss Adams’, but the company’s experience and its plan for examining Tacoma’s system were deemed superior, McCrea said.

IBM said it could do the job for $197,000, plus expenses up to 15 percent. Moss Adams wanted about $177,000 for the review.

City officials have so far refused to provide The News Tribune with a copy of IBM’s proposal, although it has provided copies of the other four proposals. After being informed of the newspaper’s public records request, IBM redacted portions of the document, said Barb Werelius, records manager for Tacoma Public Utilities. Officials are now waiting for city lawyers to review the redactions before turning the document over to the paper, Werelius said.

City Councilman Mike Lonergan said he is pleased with the work of the selection committee.

“I think myself and the general public can have a real high level of confidence in IBM Business Consulting,” he said. “That’s the Cadillac.”

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542