County government officials bemoan problems with $16 million behemoth of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system

Charlie Riley, Precinct 2 County Commissioner, always enjoys a good cup of beer, as he laughs about the massive tax dollars he has caused the Montgomery County government to spend.

Conroe, October 21 – It was a guess and a lie when Montgomery County Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo, at the behest of then-County Judge Craig Doyal, said that the price of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software was fixed at $14.8 million during an August 18, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting. County Auditor Phyllis Martin urged the expenditure along with County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, the wife of corrupt political boss Marc Davenport. County Commissioners Charlie Riley and Mike Meador joined with Doyal to approve the expenditure, while Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack voted against it.

Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae urged the Commissioners Court instead to spend approximately $250,000 on an advanced version of the Quickbooks accounting software. Noack agreed.

Now, the County government has spent $16 million on the ERP with the vendor, Infor, and the system remains largely unusable, while very few County employees are able to utilize the behemoth software due to its vast complexity and enormous scope, which are far beyond the needs of government.

Montgomery County Treasurer Melanie Bush told The Golden Hammer, “It’s a good system but it may very well be far beyond what the County government needs. I do find the $16 million cost troubling.”

Information Technology Co-Director Bobby Powell told this newspaper, “Infor is a strong and mature system. It still requires countywide training for full implementation. Once we get it fully implemented, I believe citizens will love the huge increase they’ll see in the transparency of the County government.”

Many County government officials spoke candidly with this newspaper but did so only off-the-record primarily for fear of reprisal from Riley and Meador, the two members of the Commissioners Court who advocated the expenditure. Meanwhile, of course, the Board of District Judges terminated Martin as County Auditor. The voters terminated Davenport as County Treasurer. The voters also terminated Doyal as County Judge.

The story of the ERP remains quite ugly. Spending $16 million instead of $250,000 to replace the County government’s aged accounting software appears inexcusable and irrational. The Infor ERP is so complex that less than a half a dozen of the County government’s more than three thousand employees can use it at all.

There are “significant problems” with the ERP software and the training which has already occurred across the County government for all employees. Data appears wrong, but usually that bad data springs from “major user errors.” There are many issues with the generation of data reports, because users don’t know how to access the data or use the reports.

More than a dozen of the County government’s Department Directors acknowledges that the ERP is a “much bigger system than we need.” All of those Directors agreed that it is not worth the $16 million County taxpayers paid for it.

“Basically, we’re using it as an accounting system,” one Department Director said on the condition of anonymity. The Human Resources functionality of the ERP software remains far behind schedule.

Jalomo, Riley, Meador, Doyal, Martin, and Davenport left County taxpayers with a mess. Only Riley remains, as Meador will retire at the end of 2020.

The ERP expenditure is the largest spending package – outside of road funding or the capital purchase of an office building – in the history of the Montgomery County government.

The ERP revealed the utter corruption of Davenport, Martin, and Doyal. There was no advocacy for the ERP software, because they’ve failed to find one rationale to spend the money. Martin, who, as Auditor, shouldn’t be involved in policy decisions and whom the Board of District Judges has terminated as County Auditor as of December 31, 2019, Davenport, whom the voters soundly rejected for doing a terrible job as County Treasurer, and Doyal who has done a terrible job as County Judge and has poorly reflected the principles and values of Montgomery County citizens during his tenure, pushed the ERP software funding to a contract solely because they could.

 

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