Nebraska: Control of computer system is transferred : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Control of computer system is transferred BY MARGERY BECK The Associated Press

Fed up with bugs, budget strains and belated progress tied to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Service System's computer system, Gov. Mike Johanns transferred oversight of the system to the state Administrative Services Department. "I made the decision in the last few days," Johanns said of Wednesday's move. "But I had been looking at it for some period of time."

The move was a retreat from the 1997 merger and reorganization of Nebraska's health and human services agencies under then-Gov. Ben Nelson.

"This is one area I was frustrated with that had spanned over the last administration into mine," he said. "I think we need to manage this more efficiently and with more accountability."

Johanns said his anxiety over next year's federally mandated deadline for a centralized child-support collection and disbursement system also helped spur the move, which he stressed was not punitive.

"I said earlier that this is not an employee issue," Johanns said. "They're doing everything they can to make sure this system works."

Nebraska has missed similar deadlines in 1997 and 1998 for a centralized child-support system and has been penalized between $2.3 million and $2.5 million to date.

The problem is in management, Johanns said.

The governor said his idea was to take a complicated process and place it into the hands of a state agency with the "expertise and management skills to oversee this very important function in HHS. The idea is to run it more efficiently and effectively."

Lori McClurg, director of the Department of Administrative Services, and a team from her information management staff will take over the HHS system. McClurg is a former systems analyst and computer programmer.

She echoed Johanns' insistence that the move was not intended to punish Health and Human Services, but to help it.

"HHS is in the business of delivering services, so for them to have to worry about this computer system takes them away from their business," she said.

Administrative Services is not expected to hire additional staff for the job, McClurg said, although it is possible for the completion of certain projects such as the centralized child-support system.

The administrator who had been in charge of the HHS system, Howard Boardman, resigned after he was told he was being replaced. He is the second top official in as many months to leave that department's finance and support division.

Jeff Elliott, former department director, was reassigned in May to a job developing a state accounting and personnel-management computer system.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 23, 2000

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