SACRAMENTO (KCBS) — An audit by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes is placing blame on the California State Controller’s Office for “chronic mismanagement” of the state’s payroll system.

$373 million was spent to modernize the payroll system, which has been use for 40 years. But that effort, called the 21st Century Project, was suspended in February because of recurring errors with the payroll software that allegedly does not work. The report (.pdf) goes on to call it an “expensive misadventure.”

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“In a state that has given the world Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter – California consistently struggles to modernize its own public computer systems,” the report said.

John Adkisson, the oversight committee’s director, said no one was paying much attention from the start.

“[The] vendor that was used here had actually done the Los Angeles Unified School District system and it had terrible problems. One of our biggest criticisms is that those problems were not studied carefully enough,” Adkisson said.

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The project’s contractor, SAP Public Services, was fired after tests showed serious problems. SAP did not immediately respond to KCBS’ request for comment.

When State Controller John Chiang tested the system on the payroll for his employees last summer, there were hundreds of mistakes. Now the state is right back where it started, using a payroll system that is decades old.

“[It’s] so old that people are worried and have been worried for the last decade that we had to hurry and had to get this thing done soon. It is a major concern for the state of California,” Adkisson added.

On Monday, the Controller’s office told KCBS that they are reviewing the audit and had no further comment. The issue is expected to be settled in court.

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