It has now been over five years since the University of California launched its three-year plan to upgrade the computer technology that manages payroll and human resources for the UC system
And the project has just been delayed again.
UCPath — an acronym for payroll, academic personnel, timekeeping and human resources — was supposed to launch at some sites in August, but that date has been pushed back to December, with subsequent phases now scheduled to begin in July and December of 2018.
The Board of Regents was told in January 2012 that UCPath would be online in one year. When that deadline passed, a new launch date of July 2014 was announced. It came. It went.
UCPath was originally budgeted at $156 million but has already cost $327 million, and it’s expected to cost as much as $504 million before it’s finally completed. Announced in 2011 as part of the university’s “Working Smarter” initiative, the project was expected to save $100 million per year by replacing a collection of separate 30-year-old payroll systems for 10 campuses, five medical centers and UC central administration.
It’s an embarrassment to the state of California, home to Silicon Valley, that yet another state computer upgrade is wildly over budget and behind schedule.
In 2006, the state began a payroll modernization project designed to manage payments, administration and timekeeping for 240,000 state government employees. It was never completed. In 2010, the State Controller’s Office brought in SAP Public Services, Inc., to develop and implement the MyCalPAYS system, also called the 21st Century Project. But after three years of work ended with a failed eight-month pilot test, the controller terminated SAP’s $90 million contract. Lawsuits followed, ending with SAP agreeing to repay the state $59 million.
Taxpayers spent a total of $250 million on the unsuccessful effort.
UC President Janet Napolitano has cited the state’s payroll computer problems as evidence that it’s “difficult” to upgrade “big, complicated” payroll systems, telling the Sacramento Bee in 2015 that the university has “some very strict management milestones we will meet” to finish UCPath. But two years later, the system has gone live only in Napolitano’s own office, where it cuts payroll checks for the 1,800 employees in the Office of the President.
It’s hard to imagine the executives of a Silicon Valley company coming to investors with a story like that.
Taxpayers in California have reason to wonder if they are paying too much for overhead in the UC system. Financial pressures have led the campuses to increase nonresident enrollment to more than 20 percent at UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UCLA, when 10 years ago, nonresident enrollment in the UC system was just 5 percent. And in January, Napolitano led the effort to end the six-year freeze on tuition, calling it “unsustainable.”
What’s unsustainable is Californians’ confidence that the UC system is being…