How would you like to find out that Minnesota has wasted nearly $70 million of your tax dollars on a state accounting system overhaul that doesn’t even work? That’s what was uncovered this week by the top auditor of the Minnesota State Government, Legislative Auditor James Nobles.
In 2011, the Statewide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT), which tracks billions of dollars in annual government spending on things like accounting, procurement, payroll, human resources and benefits, underwent a massive overhaul. You might think something so important and so expensive would have been given the government’s top priority to make sure everything was done right. This was not the case. Nobles stated, “What was particularly frustrating is that we had years of working up to this production of a new accounting system. So we had a long time to prepare, we spent a ton of money, we spent tens of millions of dollars, and yet we ended up with a system that didn’t do something that was very important and that we knew had to be done. This didn’t come out of the blue.”
After two years of glitches and reporting issues, agency heads are complaining that the system does not provide them with regular financial information they need to properly manage their agencies. In turn, they cannot accurately report how their money is being spent, pushing their required audits back even further.
Nobles went on to add that Minnesota missed its Fiscal Year 2012 (FY2012) reporting deadline by over three months and violated federal law when it did not get its final audits of all state agencies submitted to the Federal Government on time. The final FY2012 report is still not expected to be completed until later this month. Meanwhile, the FY2013 audit of $18 billion needs to be turned over to the Federal Government in only 5 months.
The net effect of this late reporting is that the state’s credit rating could drop, which would end up costing Minnesota taxpayers even more in higher interest rates on money that the state borrows. It could also lead to additional sanctions from the Federal Government which has already sent 31 letters out to the MN State Colleges & Universities (MNSCU) threatening to pull their student financial aid funding because they have not received their financial reports. MNSCU claims that they are a victim of SWIFT as they reported their information but SWIFT has not passed this information along to the Federal Government.
If the Federal Government is required to pull its student financial aid funding due to lack of reporting, Minnesota will then be required to incur additional short-term loans at higher than normal interest rates in order to cover these costs until everything can be sorted out.
As a citizen of this state, I am outraged at the lack of government accountability. We have had over two years to fix this issue and we are still running into problems with no end in sight. We have a responsibility to the people of this great state to be better than this.
To make matters worse, access to SWIFT became unavailable on Sunday June 30, 2013 and is not expected to become available again until Saturday August 17, 2013.
Please post your comments so I can hear your own thoughts on this matter.