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Other Opinion: Demand accountability for broken computer system

Maybe starting all over is just what's needed, even if that's precisely what a state agency executive director warned against last week.

And maybe her objections — after more than eight years of patience and toil, after tens of millions of dollars of cost overruns, and still without a computer system that actually works right for registering and licensing vehicles in Minnesota — are precisely why heads ought to be rolling now.

Minnesotans can demand accountability here and can balk at, or at least meet with enthusiastic skepticism, a request that accompanied last week's agency objections: Another $43 million is needed — and needed now, we were told — to fix the computer system, called the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, that already has cost taxpayers $96 million.

And still doesn't work. Remember?

Eight years ago, the system's original budget was $48 million. It was to replace a 30-year-old computer system the Department of Vehicle Services had been using. And now they want $43 million more? These same people? This same agency? How much would it cost to go back to paper forms?

"They are ... virtually holding a gun to our head, saying, 'If you don't give us the money, we're going to shut down functionality of the system.' It's really untenable," Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Untenable? Unacceptable.

And frustrating, isn't it, that the only solution being pitched is additional funding from the Legislature? Taxpayers didn't make the mess but are being put on the hook to fix it. The state agency, Minnesota IT Services, and those in charge there and who worked on this project there — and at Hewlett Packard, too, to a lesser degree, because it originally helped to develop the failed system before MN.IT took over — deserve to be put on the hook instead.

"Insanity, in this case, might be defined as giving more money for MNLARS repairs to the people who overspent to develop this wretched mess in the first place," the Marshall, Minn., Independent newspaper editorialized last week.

Yes, heads should roll, but knowing state government as we do, insanity seems far more likely to prevail.

Unless we start all over.

-- Duluth News Tribune