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Auditor Concerns Continue As Kansas Driver’s License IT Project Nears Launch

More than five years past its original deadline, an information technology project to migrate Kansas driver's license records to a new system remains incomplete and troubled, auditors say.
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Kansas News Service
More than five years past its original deadline, an information technology project to migrate Kansas driver's license records to a new system remains incomplete and troubled, auditors say.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Dec. 27, the Kansas Department of Revenue announced it would not be launching its new drivers license records system as planned on Jan. 2. To "ensure a successful rollout," the agency anticipated a short delay of days or weeks. 

Kansas auditors remain worried about the quality of a major state information technology project involving about 2 million drivers’ records — with little time left until the project’s go-live date.

The Kansas Department of Revenue, which is in charge of building and rolling out KanLicense — formerly known as KanDrive — said it is monitoring the situation on a daily basis but that the auditors’ recent report is based on out-of-date information.

We “will not go live until we are comfortable with the status of the program,” Rachel Whitten, a spokeswoman for the revenue department, wrote in an email Thursday.

KanLicense’s current launch date is listed as Jan. 2. That’s six years behind schedule.

Legislative auditors have been reviewing the project’s progress on a quarterly basis because of its troubled history. KanLicense involves migrating records from an aged mainframe. A smooth transition is critical to ensuring uninterrupted access at driver’s license exam offices and by law enforcement agencies.

The latest audit, released this month, said “it is unlikely the project can be deployed” without again pushing back the launch date or experiencing quality problems.

In an email, Whitten said the KanLicense team has been meeting with the auditors weekly but that the recent audit is “three months out of date.”

“Now the focus is on the homestretch and the launch,” she said of the project’s current status. 

Revenue Secretary Sam Williams has sought to resolve project woes by switching to a fixed-bid model with milestone deadlines for the contractors.

But the auditors said that led to incorrectly listing parts of the project as on target, preventing the accurate picture necessary for the steering committee’s decision and scheduling process.

“KDOR’s milestone tracking does not accurately represent the project’s status,” auditors wrote.

Milestones delayed from one quarter to the next were “marked as ‘on track,’ signaling no project health concerns in later steering committee reports,” they wrote. “Other milestones that had been marked as ‘completed’ still had outstanding work.”

The Department of Revenue replied in writing to the audit, saying KanLicense “has experienced significant progress since the last report.”

“The project has begun mock cutover dress rehearsals,” the agency wrote and “is currently under heavy oversight by the executive management team.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

Copyright 2017 KCUR 89.3

Celia comes to the Kansas News Service after five years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. She brings in-depth experience covering schools and education policy in Kansas as well as news at the Statehouse. In the last year she has been diving into data reporting. At the Kansas News Service she will also be producing more radio, a medium she’s been yearning to return to since graduating from Columbia University with a master’s in journalism.