Software oversight was the problem

Published 4:21 pm Monday, February 16, 2015

To the editor:

It seems the newspaper of all organizations should understand the role that could be played by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act in the sort of B.S. that is described by recent stories on the reputed problems with software developed for the city by PCI LLC (“City stops software project,” Feb. 8, and “Council on software issue: ‘Figure it out,’” Feb. 15).

The terms of the original contract, as well as any records of payments of taxpayer monies to the company, should be available. It should also be possible to ask for any email or written communications between the city’s project manager and the management of the company in question.

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Further, it should be possible to request that copies of the taxpayer-purchased source code be made available for evaluation as to its soundness and workmanlike suitability for the task by independent technologists.

One would hope the city had clauses in its services agreement and statement of work with the company that addressed recompense and penalties, should the software fail to perform substantially as advertised.

Copies of any services agreements, statements of work, source code, correspondence, milestones, schedules and documentation should all be provided under a FOIA request.

In all honesty, there is no type of billing software that is so unique to Suffolk as to require five years of engineering time and a cost of $1.1 million. This sounds like two guys in a garage getting a fat paycheck for five years at taxpayer expense and ultimately failing to deliver.

If it was a time-and-materials contract, as it likely was, there is little to be done to recover engineering costs, as those payments in the past likely constitute acceptance of the work performed to date.

So really, whoever managed this project for the city should be sacked for not providing proper technical and fiscal oversight.

Chuck Shotton