Maine not alone in finding fault with human resources software firm
Mar. 10—The peppy, 46-second video promises state workers their new payroll and human resources system will provide them with greater flexibility and less paper.
One frame in the video shows a male cartoon character sliding down a rainbow smiling, arms in the air, apparently freed from the burden of the paperwork required by the state's current system.
It's a cheery portrayal of a cloud-based software application the state contracted with Workday Inc. to provide but has yet to see go into effect even though the video — still live on the state's website — promises employees they will be able to log into the system from "almost any computer or mobile device" starting in 2020.
What the video doesn't say is that Maine has paid California-based Workday more than $21 million for the system and that Workday employees who were working to implement the system walked off the job in mid-February. Or that the company's software has prompted other large government customers to raise concerns that Workday's system may not be the rainbow slide into the future depicted in its promotional video.
State officials and lawmakers remained tight-lipped Tuesday about the ongoing contract disagreement with Workday following a statement from Administration and Financial Affairs Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa's office Monday that said the state may take legal action to claw back taxpayer funds paid to the publicly traded company.
Workday's human resources management platform, implemented by the cities of Baltimore and Denver, has been the subject ongoing criticism as glitches and interface difficulties have left municipal officials and workers discouraged and dissatisfied by the system, according to local media reports.
In Baltimore, city officials were wrestling with paychecks being issued when they shouldn't be or not being issued when they should. In Denver, an internal audit of the system by city and county officials found data collection problems that caused some employees to miss merit pay increases while others were given raises they hadn't yet earned. Both cities have between 12,000 and 13,000 municipal employees, more than the estimated 10,000 state workers covered by the system in Maine.
The specific problems or delays in implementing the system in Maine remain unclear. In a statement Monday, Figueroa's spokeswoman, Kelsey Goldsmith, said Workday's shortfalls included, "failure to deliver adequate labor cost and ad-hoc reporting solutions, failure to meet certain expectations in the agreed upon statement of work, and operating in bad faith."
The company was contracted under the administration of former Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Maine officials have repeatedly rebuffed requests for copies of the state's Workday contracts and did so again Tuesday.
Goldsmith said the public documents needed to be formally requested under the state's Freedom of Access Act, which the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram then promptly filed on Tuesday. Goldsmith also referred additional questions about the Workday contract to the Attorney General's Office, whose spokesman, Marc Malon, did not return messages Tuesday.
Workday executives also have not responded to repeated requests from the Press Herald for information on their view of the dispute with state officials.
The disagreement between Workday and the state also involves new allegations by state Rep. Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta, who sent a letter to the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee demanding an investigation of "sexual misconduct" and "fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer funds" although the letter fails to detail which party was accused of misconduct.
According to Figueroa, who testified before the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee last week, Workday offers what's known as software-as-a-service (SaaS) financial and human resources capital management platforms, for which the state pays a subscription fee per user. It also offers consulting and professional services to implement the software.
Figueroa said state officials still believe the software platform is a viable solution for an antiquated human resources system that depends on a computer language that only two state employees, both on the verge of retirement, know how to write. She said the relationship between state workers and the Workday team assigned to implement the system in Maine, which they have been working on for nearly five years, apparently broke down last month, when Workday walked off the job.
Fecteau, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, also was one of the two lawmakers on the 13-member panel who voted against a request from Figueroa for about $8 million of ongoing funding for the platform in a supplemental budget that will go before the Legislature later this week.
"If budgets are moral documents, I morally object to sexual misconduct and fraud, waste and abuse, and will vote against this motion," Fecteau said during the hearing.
But Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the Senate chair of the budget committee, said Fecteau had not provided enough evidence for her and other Democrats to oppose the ongoing funding for the Workday project.
The other committee member to vote against the proposal, Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, said Tuesday that she opposed the measure because of the overall price of the project and the lack of progress.
"This is a lot of money," Arata said Tuesday. "We need more information — a lot more information about the management of the program and where we are at."
Arata also sits on the 12-member Government Oversight Committee, which includes six Republicans and six Democrats.
Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, the House chair of the oversight committee, declined to comment on the issue until it comes before the committee. Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the Senate chairman of the committee did not return messages seeking comment.