Utah Lawmaker to Request Audit of $16M Spent on Y2K

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Lawmaker to Request Audit of $16M Spent on Y2K Sunday, April 9, 2000 BY JUDY FAHYS THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

Utah may have gotten a clean bill of health when the ominous Y2K bug passed without a sniffle. But the state's other bills for Y2K may be an entirely different matter.

Rep. Ray Short plans to ask this week for an in-depth audit of the state's Y2K spending. He fears some of the $16 million the state spent was used improperly.

"I want to look at every agency or department that got money and make sure they used it in the way the law requires," said the Holladay Republican. " [Some state administrators] used it as extra money to do things that weren't part of the plan."

Short will request the audit Tuesday from the legislative panel that oversees the Legislative Auditor General's office. State law put the state Department of Administrative Services (DAS) in charge of screening requests for Y2K money. State agencies could apply for the sums needed to tackle "problems related to two-digit date fields in computing devices."

David Fletcher, deputy director of DAS, noted Utah navigated Y2K smoothly, after preparation that took years and extensive coordination throughout state government. In fact, he even had asked the auditors for guidance.

"The state's Y2K spending was less than most states and comparable organizations," he said. "There were a lot of unknowns and we tried to be as conservative and prudent as we could." Government nationwide spent billions of dollars on Y2K fixes. The federal government alone plowed nearly $8.4 billion into measures aimed at averting power outages, computer failures and other problems the computer glitch might have caused.

Utah put its modest appropriations into computer software and hardware, updated telecommunications networks and utility-system controls, among other things. But a few purchases left Short scratching his head as state officials described some of the spending during the 2000 Legislature. He wondered, for example, how three emergency power generators addressed the "two-digit" problem. And why did state officers postpone their decision on generators for a year, especially when the delay wound up being so costly?

A final spending report shows that the DAS bought three generators for about $450,000 last fall to serve the State Office Building behind the Capitol, the Draper National Guard Armory and the Cal Rampton Building, which houses Utah's public safety and transportation departments.

But in 1998, DAS could have rented the generators for $8,500 apiece per month. And, by August 1999, the rental rate had climbed to $18,520 per month each -- with a six-month minimum rental.

During the 2000 Legislature, Short requested a basic review of the spending. On Tuesday, he will ask for an in-depth analysis.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 10, 2000

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