Audit: State IT department lacks procedures, struggles with staffing

    The Louisiana Legislative Auditor published a report this morning citing issues with the state’s Office of Technology Services—which handles IT issues for the state—including staffing challenges and a lack of procedures to handle complex service requests. 

    The auditor conducted the audit in the wake of negative feedback it received about OTS service from a survey sent to state agencies. The problems identified in the survey mostly dealt with customer service issues, including “poor communication, slow resolution of help desk tickets, and lack of accountability and transparency.”

    The audit found the agency doesn’t have procedures for handling complex service requests, and that  “poor internal communication between OTS sections contributes to delays in resolving these types of requests.” 

    The department does not have a comprehensive list of the services it offers to state agencies and how much each service costs. Performance expectations for each of the services the department provides have also not been defined, and there is no formal process for receiving and responding to feedback. 

    The audit criticizes the department for not tracking all state agencies’ IT projects and for not developing a process to manage IT projects. 

    “Effective project management is important because OTS has identified a $959 million backlog for modernizing the most at-risk applications,” the audit reads. 

    Finally, staffing challenges, from a “high number” of retirements and vacancies, affect the department’s ability to provide IT services effectively and efficiently, according to the report. According to state agencies and OTS staff, positions are vacant for long periods of time. 

    In a letter responding to the audit, OTS Chief Information Officer Richard “Dickie” Howze writes that the department concurs with some of the findings, including issues with staffing and tracking IT projects. He disagrees with other findings, like the recommendation for a list of all services. 

    “We appreciate the time taken by the Legislative Auditor staff to attempt to learn the complexity of the organization, however, we believe that the full depth of this complexity is not fully understood nor has enough credit been given for the immense progress that has been made since the Office of Technology’s inception in July 2014,” writes Howze. 

    One positive note from the report: OTS has reduced the amount of time it takes to resolve service requests. Service desk teams from 2016 to 2018 reduced the overall time it took to resolve tickets from 12.4 business days to 2.3 business days, and field teams reduced resolution times from 14.9 business days to 4.6 business days. 

    The audit was completed prior to the November cybersecurity attack on Louisiana state government servers, and does not focus on OTS’ data security function. However, the state’s Legislative Auditor’s IT auditors are currently assessing the effects of the cybersecurity attack, the agency notes in the report, along with OTS’ response to the incident. Read the full report. 

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