Will there be any real accountability or reform as a result of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) disaster?
I don’t use the word disaster lightly, but in terms of high-level incompetence and abuse of taxpayers, I’d say this mess qualifies.
It is difficult to keep up with all the public funds that have been funneled into this system that is still not working, months after it was launched, but it has been reported the initial roll-out cost taxpayers $93 million. Then, another $10 million in emergency funds was approved to try to fix the system.
Recently, more questions have been raised.
This week, KSTP.com reported the Department of Public Safety, which runs the Driver and Vehicle Services office, told lawmakers it is spending $1.3 million from a highway user account funded by the gas tax to pay for hiring 26 workers at a call center.
This raised the ire of some legislators who say the funds were intended to be used for road repairs, and hiring people to answer phones does not meet the definition of “highway purposes.”
Also this week, concerns were raised about why Minnesota’s information technology department, affectionately known as MINIT, spent $2.5 million last fall to remodel its office space.
Based on the way this debacle has been handled, it seems to me that instead of wasting $2.5 million of taxpayers’ money to remodel their office space in the middle of a real crisis, the state could free up some space in that department by moving the individuals responsible into new quarters in jail.
“It is time to dig into what’s happening there and maybe do some restructuring of their agency rather than letting them restructure cubicles,” Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) was quoted as saying.
That sounds like a good idea.
MNIT official Paul Meekin was fired last month. An outside investigator found that “Meekin didn’t provide meaningful oversight and didn’t fulfill pre-launch testing expectations [of MNLARS],” according to reports.
The investigation needs to go further, and changes are needed.
When government agencies spend tens of millions of tax dollars without accountability, the system needs to be fixed the whole system, not just MNLARS.
This is unacceptable. Multiple inquiries have been taking place at the legislature, and that’s a good start.
But, when the dust settles, taxpayers must demand accountability, not excuses.