RI taxpayer blunder: DMV computer upgrade

One of the biggest blunders of Rhode Island government is the computer system upgrade at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The situation is so complicated that it's hard to say who did what wrong. But the facts are the contract to rebuild the system is years behind schedule and it will cost millions of dollars more than the original deal.

All of the information for all of the drivers in Rhode Island -- that's 800,000 individuals -- is stored on a computer system that's more than 25 years old.

In computer terms, that's the Stone Age.

In 2008, the state signed a contract to put in a new system that was supposed to be online by the middle of 2010. That was four years ago, and it's still not done.

But the state was responsible for much of the delay, as evidenced by a $1.3 million payment to the contractor.

Ultimately, the contract cost has jumped from $8.8 million to $15.5 million, an increase of $6.7 million.

DMV administrator Anthony Silva said he believes it will be a worthwhile investment.

"We project that it will probably be three or four times what it costs us now," Silva said.

Silva said it's really not surprising that there have been delays and cost overruns because states all over the country are wrestling with the same problems.

He said he believes the computer upgrade is on track to a satisfactory finish.

"We've been seeing more success in the past 90 days than we've seen in the past three years," Silva said.

Hewlett Packard employees are at the DMV, working to build the new system. Silva said the state isn't paying anything and hasn't paid anything for three years. Money will change hands once the system is working.

Regardless, the project is $6.7 million more than the original contract. Added to the costs for the non-existent tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge and repairs on the new Training School -- the running total of Rhode Island blunders is $12.1 million.