Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Computer Crash Cripples Jefferson County (Alabama)

So what does a large municipal bankruptcy really mean? Chaos. Here is al.com with the details:
A server that runs Jefferson County's financial software system has crashed and halted financial activity in a number of county departments, officials said Thursday.

Since Tuesday, the hardware problem has slowed or stopped transactions in the finance, treasurer and purchasing departments, preventing vendor payments and deposits and delaying preparation of the fiscal 2011 audit, according to county officials.

The server runs SAP, the accounting software system the county uses to track financial activity.

"The SAP functionality is so diminished that it does not allow us to do the day-to-day financial operations of our county," Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said. "It's the financial backbone of the county. It's the language that we use to communicate with all of our vendors and all of our financial contacts throughout the county. And to have it go mute to where we can't communicate is a tremendous problem."

County Manager Tony Petelos said all of the servers that run the SAP program have outlived their useful life, and of the 16 servers in the Information Technology Department, only one has any life left.

"The rest of them are outdated and they need to be replaced," Petelos said. "When one server crashes it causes the whole system to go down. I've said this over and over again: The county has to reinvest in its infrastructure, and this is only one key example."

Workers were able to restore the server but are looking for a way to load SAP programs and data, Petelos said. "If successful, SAP should be available within 24 hours," he said. "If unsuccessful, a complete rebuild of the system will be required and could take up to five days."

Stephens blamed the problem on staff reductions and decisions to reduce maintenance contracts to save money.

The cash-strapped county laid off hundreds of workers last year to conserve cash until a fix could be found for a shortage of general fund revenue. Wayne Cree, director of information technology, has said his department lost approximately 30 budgeted positions in the past year because of layoffs, retirements, transfers and resignations.
But here is the "money quote," so to speak:
Stephens said contracts countywide have been either terminated or reduced to save money, and the toll is mounting.

"You do away with people and you do away with outside maintenance contracts that take care of that proprietary equipment, and you're left with the inability to operate government," Stephens said.
Consider this an early warning of things to come all across the country.

Bonus: "Alabama...you've got a weight on your shoulders that's breaking your back"

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like that old conservative argument for cutting taxes would "starve the [government] beast". Of course, once the beast is dead, then everything will work out, like the servers in Jefferson County.