April 4th, 2013 By ANDREA DAMEWOOD | News | Posted In: Cops and Courts, City Hall, PDX News

City Audit Says 911 Communications Replacement Project is $9 Million Overbudget

     
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emergency+operations+centerWestside Emergency Operations Center
The Portland department charged with replacing emergency radio and data communication systems is $9 million over budget and three years behind schedule, the city’s auditor says.

An audit of the Public Safety Systems Revitalization Program found it suffers from poor, inconsistent management and failed to learn from mistakes. The audit, released Thursday at midnight, found that the program has churned through five managers in six years, with an average tenure of 17 months.

“An ineffective governance structure hindered the PSSRP from meeting basic goals and objectives and contributed to delays and cost overruns,” the audit reads.

PSSRB is part of the Office of Financial Management, and is in charge of replacing all systems vital for police and fire emergency calls, including: Computer Aided Dispatch, Public Safety Radio, the police Regional Justice Information Network and the Portland Fire and Rescue systems.

The most expensive projects, replacing the emergency dispatch system, came in at 10 percent under budget at $14.3 million, and the fire radio system was 3 percent under, at $45.2 million. But the audit also says police information systems has gone 96 percent above budget, hitting $12.7 million as of July, 2012, and the fire and rescue system has catapulted to 277 percent higher than original estimates, going from a $500,000 job to $1.9 million.

The entire emergency system replacement program was expected to cost $71 million, but increased to $80 million, the report says.

“In both cases the quality assurance experts were giving the city advice they weren’t always heeding,” Drummond Kahn, director of audit services, tells WW.

The PSSRP used to be directly under the control of former City Commissioner Randy Leonard. In 2012 the program was sued by one of its former directors. The Oregonian reported that Lisa Vasquez filed a whistleblower suit asking for $800,000 in damages. Leonard fired her in 2011; Vasquez charged it was due to her raising questions about a no-bid contract.

Also in 2012, the city shook up PSSRP’s leadership chain, putting it under direct oversight of leaders with the Office of Financial Management. That bureau belonged to Mayor Sam Adams.

Abby Coppock, spokeswoman for OMF says the department has seen the auditor’s report, and agrees with many of the recommendations.

“In fact, many of these ideas have already begun to be implemented within PSSRP,” Coppock says.

Update: Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales, also responded to the audit in an email to WW. “The audit shows that, of four projects, two came in under budget, and one came in on time. The others did not. That’s not great news, especially when we are talking about public safety. On the other hand, this didn’t surprise anyone. The audit shines a light on serious short-comings that are being addressed right now.”
 

 
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