PCI and city working together

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The city and a software company have expressed a willingness to work together on a project the city was on the verge of canceling earlier this month.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn wrote in a letter dated Monday to City Council members that “PCI has acknowledged the city’s concerns with the software and expressed an interest in continuing to work with the city of Suffolk at no cost until the software has been successfully implemented.

The target date for that implementation now is January 2016 — six years after the project started.

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“It sounds promising,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said on Tuesday. “It sounds like the company understands that there are issues.”

The PCI system is a revenue collection and billing software that the city entered into contract to purchase in 2010.

Earlier this month, city Information Technology Director Ken Beam wrote in a letter to PCI that the city wished to terminate its contract. The problem was that the new system will not automatically interface with the finance department’s New World-manufactured system, meaning the city could collect money but not keep track of how much it has.

City Treasurer Ron Williams said an interface does exist and that there is a workaround in the meantime. But city Finance Director Lenora Reid said the system was not producing accurate reports for her staff to use in doing that workaround, and that it would take almost an entire full-time position to do so.

Reid said the interface the city tried to use was performing with only about 35 percent accuracy when transferring amounts from PCI to New World, even after PCI staff worked on the problem on site.

The city’s financial offices currently use an older system manufactured by BAI that, Williams said, is not web-based, is more labor-intensive, produces too much paper and is too time-consuming during individual transactions. Staying on the system would require costly upgrades, Williams said. But Beam said the BAI system needs only minor upgrades and training for some newer employees who have not yet worked with it.

Cuffee-Glenn’s letter this week said PCI has agreed to partially fund pre- and post-implementation audits conducted by the city’s financial auditors.

“Knowing that it is significantly more cost-effective to correct weaknesses before an implementation is rolled out, the pre-implementation audit will ensure proper processes are followed and significant testing is completed to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the city’s financial information.
Williams said he was encouraged to hear that the city and company are now willing to negotiate.

“I’m glad to hear that we’re going to be re-engaged on the project,” he said, adding that he hopes all the stakeholders will be included in the meetings.

City Council members also seemed buoyed by the news.

“At the moment, I’m pleased, and I want to give it time to see if it works,” Don Goldberg said.

“I’m encouraged we can maybe find a solution to make this process work,” Roger Fawcett said. “I want to give everybody an opportunity to see what we can do to fix it.”

“With the amount of money we have invested in it, we need to come in and straighten it up,” Tim Johnson said. “It’s not a city council issue; it’s an issue our city manager needs to deal with. It made me feel good to know she’s doing her job as far as looking at all areas we need to deal with.”

“Any teamwork and effort will be highly appreciated,” Curtis Milteer said.

And Mike Duman also was pleased: “It’s more than encouraging that we may end up with what could be a perfect resolution,” he said.