Mississippi state government’s $100 million accounting system that launched July 1 made nearly 100,000 employee and vendor payments in July, but came in late on slightly more than two dozen contract worker payments.
Human error caused the 26 contract payments to be a few days late, the Department of Finance & Administration said.
In the meantime, though, multiple payrolls have gone out every week, the agency said.
Putting the Mississippi’s Accountability System for Government Information and Collaboration, or MAGIC, into operation “has been a massive undertaking and like any new system there is a learning curve and new problems to be resolved,” DFA spokeswoman Sherri Hilton said in an email.
The focus has been on ensuring no repeat problems occur, she said.
A Mississippi Business Journal story detailing MAGIC’s debut drew several responses from readers who identified themselves as either state employees or contract workers. They claimed to have gotten paid late or not all at.
“My contract that started processing on June 23, 2014, is still waiting for the state to give me a vendor ID number,” a writer identified as a Mississippi Department of Health contract worker said in an Aug. 6 correspondence with the MBJ.
“I have been working for them almost two months with no pay,” the writer wrote. “It’s still stuck at waiting for a vendor ID number.”
No replies were received to emails to the writers to the MBJ. The emails sought additional details on their complaints.
Hilton said without specific information it’s impossible to say why their payments were delayed. “There could be a multitude of reasons, including input errors, which were not uncommon under the old system.”
State officials have called the launch of MAGIC marked a transition to an ultra modernized way of managing state finances. The planning, procurement, training and start-up of MAGIC required a dozen years of work, including around-the-clock shifts in the weeks leading to the July 1 launch.
The system designed by SAP Public Sector Software integrates and manages state government’s finance, procurement, fleet management, inventory management, grant management and data warehouse control. “MAGIC is like driving a Cadillac versus a tractor,” DFA Executive Director Kevin Upchurch said in response to the complaints received by the MBJ.
“It’s a completely different way of operating. Both vehicles have a steering wheel but everything else is in a different place.”
MAGIC has more buttons and gadgets, Upchurch added, using the Cadillac-tractor comparison. “It may take some time to learn what they all do and how to use them, but eventually it is going to be a smooth ride.”
The writers to the MBJ hope he’s right.
“I noticed I was supposed to be paid on Friday, July 11. It’s now July 13 and I still haven’t been paid,” a writer identified only as an “anonymous state employee” wrote on July 13. “All contract workers for the state were notified late Friday that no one could tell when they would be paid.”
The same writer wrote on July 25: “Our paychecks were 10 days late last pay period. This pay period they are late again.”
Another writer on July 10 wrote: “Anybody noticed that it is 7-10 and MAGIC is still not up and running?”
A writer identified only as “John Doe” wrote on Aug. 13: “I have been waiting for my payments since June. The system services to the high-up folks at state offices. The state is ruining my patience.”
Upchurch said the new technology and integration of so many functions of state government to a single system is a remarkable achievement. “I’m very proud that the state of Mississippi has made great progress toward transitioning from our outdated accounting and finance system to a unique, state-of-the-art business and financial management system that will serve us all well.”
But, Upchurch conceded, “Even new cars sometimes have problems that must be fixed.”