The state auditor of Alabama, Jim Zeigler, has filed a lawsuit against the governor’s administration for breaking the state’s bid law with an accounting software contract.
Alabama has been using the State of Alabama Accounting and Resource System, recently rebranded as STAARS, since last year. Zeigler claims that its installation was plagued by glitches and left the state with a backlog of unpaid bills at the end of 2015.
Alabama finance director Bill Newton said that problems reported about the implementation of STAARS have been fixed and that the system is on schedule for full implementation, and that it will be a major upgrade to the state’s financial transaction systems.
Zeigler’s lawsuit claims that Alabama awarded the STAARS contract by amending a 1982 contract and not entertaining competitive bids. According to the suit, the 1982 contract ended in 1997. However, one of Zeigler’s attorneys, Susan Copeland, noted that the STAARS system implemented last year was not simply an upgraded system, but a new system entirely. That allegation seems to be supported by the STAARS website, which claims that it is a “new state-wide software platform.”
During a press conference, Zeigler said STAARS continues to have operational problems, saying it has reached “a new level of dysfunction.” He said that he has received hundreds of claims from vendors saying that they have not been paid by the state for outstanding invoices. If they do not get paid by the end of the year, Zeigler said, they will have to file with the Board of Adjustment.
“We will explore in this lawsuit how the defendants manipulated the contract to evade competitive bid requirements … and the dozens of ways in which the STAARS software does not work,” Zeigler stated. “We will explore the probability that the state bought an off the shelf software program that was not appropriate and not fit for Alabama’s accounting needs … and the damage which this failed software has caused and continues to cause the state agencies and thus the taxpayers.”
The new contract for STAARS cost a reported $47 million.
“We ask for a return of money paid by the state of Alabama to the vendor of the STAARS contract,” Zeigler added.
A spokesperson for STAARS told Accounting Today that they could not comment.
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