The Roger Williams statue overlooks the Providence skyline. (Photo: Richard Cavalleri, Shutterstock)

Rhode Island IT Freeze Won’t Stop Revenue Department Projects

IT projects within Rhode Island’s Department of Revenue will likely remain on schedule despite Gov. Gina Raimondo’s recent freeze on all such initiatives, according to Paul Grimaldi, the department’s chief of information and public relations.

Raimondo announced on Feb. 15 that she is freezing all large IT projects until the state forms a better strategy for managing them. Although Raimondo’s freeze applies to all state agencies, Grimaldi said the Department of Revenue, and its five internal divisions, will probably not be too drastically affected because many of its projects are well underway. Revenue’s five divisions are Lottery, Motor Vehicles, Revenue Analysis, Municipal Finance, and Taxation.

“The Division of Motor Vehicles remains encouraged about the development testing and training processes for the Rhode Island Modernization System (RIMS),” Grimaldi said. “The project for the past year has hit all its deadlines and the application is now up and running in simulation mode.”

RIMS is the DMV’s software program that will replace the state’s 40-year-old computer system. Grimaldi said the project will remain on schedule for its midsummer launch. He also said the system will meet Federal standards for security and functionality.

Although RIMS is months away from completion, Grimaldi said he is confident deployment will continue as usual because the project has its own dedicated staff. Not only does the RIMS staff have two senior project managers, but its governing committee includes the DMV administrator, Revenue’s chief financial officer, and the director of the state’s Department of Administration.

“The committee meets weekly to review matters related to the project,” Grimaldi said. “There also are biweekly ‘showcases’ during which RIMS team members demonstrate functionality of newly developed software. There is a  series of ‘go live’ check-off decision points that will have to be satisfied prior to bringing up the new system for actual use.”

Officials in the Department of Municipal Finance, in addition to the DMV, are also working on an IT project. Municipal Finance is preparing for a municipal transparency portal, which will make financial reporting data publicly available on one central website. Grimaldi said testing for this portal will continue into 2017, but there is no portal launch date yet.

Grimaldi said a third IT project that will continue as normal is the push to add interactive functionality to the State Tax Administration and Revenue System (STAARS). According to Grimaldi, the STAARS website was completed in 2016 on time and on budget, and this year’s work “will make marginal improvements to the current system.”

At a press conference in Providence, R.I., on Feb. 15, Raimondo cited ongoing problems with launching the state’s $364 million Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) as one reason for the freeze.

“These problems largely stem from Deloitte’s delivery of an incomplete technology system that was not ready to go live in September 2016,” said Eric Beane, Rhode Island’s Chief Operating Officer in a report assessing UHIP issued Feb. 15. “The design of the system did not sufficiently account for the specific needs and policies of Rhode Island. Key functionality and interfaces were deferred, requiring our staff to adapt with a host of cumbersome and inadequate manual workarounds, many of which are still in place today.”

Grimaldi said he did not know when the governor’s freeze would be lifted.

“I have not encountered a similar IT freeze, but I have only been in state service for a year,” Grimaldi said. “I was a reporter for 25 years prior to that and don’t recall one solely for the purposes of development process review. Those that I do remember were for budgetary reasons of one sort or the other.”

Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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