Special Reports

Tacoma thins list of likely auditors

Tacoma officials hope to pick a company to examine the city’s troubled computer system by the end of the month.

Five companies submitted proposals for all or part of the work and a selection committee has narrowed the list to two finalists, Francesca Heard, chairwoman of a city selection committee told the City Council’s Government Performance & Finance Committee on Wednesday.

Council members asked for the audit of the city’s multimillion-dollar, problem-plagued computer system last fall after hearing complaints about the system’s performance.

The News Tribune documented many of the problems in a four-part series published in February, and the state auditor said problems with the system created “significant weaknesses” in the city’s financial controls.

The proposed audit is divided into three categories:

 • A “gap” analysis, or review of what functions the computer system is not providing.

 • An evaluation of the computer system’s work plan.

 • An audit of the computer department itself, known as the Business Information Systems Department, including a comparison of Tacoma’s costs with other governments and utilities.

The city invited companies to submit proposals for all or part of the work. The companies that responded were identified as Greenwater Consulting, Merina & Company, Pacific Technologies Inc., Moss Adams LLC, and IBM Business Consulting Services. Heard wouldn’t identify the finalists.

The group plans to interview representatives from both finalists next week and make a recommendation to the government performance committee April 27, she said.

Just two firms, Moss Adams and IBM, submitted proposals for all three parts.

Councilman Mike Lonergan, chairman of the government performance committee, noted the relatively small number of companies that responded and asked Heard whether the selection committee had enough options.

Heard said the committee was happy with the choices. “We have some really good firms,” she said.

One concern for council members has been the cost of the audit, but Heard said all of the responses fell below the $200,000 target. Councilwoman Julie Anderson said she was surprised to hear that and reiterated her desire for an in-depth examination of the computer system, not a “conceptual” audit.

Heard said the selection committee will have a clearer picture of what the companies propose to do after the interviews next week.

The News Tribune series reported that the new computer system, frequently referred to as a $50 million system, will in fact cost the city at least $74 million by the end of the year.

And rather than allow the city and Tacoma Public Utilities to reduce the size of their work forces as promised, it actually required more than 60 new employees last year.

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542