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NYC Drops $722M On CityTime Attendance System 306

theodp writes "New York City is reportedly paying 230 consultants an average annual salary of $400K for a computer project that is seven years behind schedule and vastly over budget. The payments continue despite Mayor Bloomberg's admission that the computerized timekeeping and payroll system — dubbed CityTime — is 'a disaster.' Eleven CityTime consultants rake in more than $600K annually, with three of them making as much as $676,000. The 40 highest-paid people on the project bill taxpayers at least $500K a year. Some of the consultants have been working at these rates for as long as a decade."
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NYC Drops $722M On CityTime Attendance System

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  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:24AM (#31639232)
    ... oversight is on vacation? What does a project have to do to get sh!t canned? I could have not delivered a timekeeping and payroll system for 1/2 that!
    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      Vacation? I'd say oversight is off retired on this one. That's a lot of money to be putting into a system and not having delivered it. I'd love to have the role of these consultants- that's a LOT of cash to be getting per year to have delivered nothing on with only apparently minimal expectations of having something to show for yourself in the future.

    • Corruption (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BeanThere ( 28381 )

      Is it just me or do Americans seem to have some kind of blind spot when it comes to government corruption? In any other country, this would've immediately been called for what it is, plain old corruption, and would be a scandal. It is obvious what is happening here.

      • Re:Corruption (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mellon ( 7048 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:54AM (#31639926) Homepage

        This isn't government corruption. It's private enterprise. The idea is that government is fundamentally incompetent. Anything done by a government will not work. So government can't hire employees to work on software projects. Instead, it hires private enterprise to do it. Private enterprise is efficient and effective, and the result is savings.

        This way of thinking has brought us multi-billion-dollar FAA upgrades that didn't work, new IRS d-bases that failed utterly, and created a whole industry of government contractors whose sole function in life is to transfer tax money from your pocket to theirs. The sad fact is that five programmers at Lawrence Livermore Labs could have gotten this done in a year for $500k. The outsourcing model doesn't work for us. Tragically, it *does* work for the people to whom the money flows, and so they lobby for it, and we get government contractors instead of government employees doing these projects.

        • Re:Corruption (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Main Gauche ( 881147 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:10PM (#31641756)

          The idea is that government is fundamentally incompetent.

          I know you meant this sarcastically, but in fact, this example demonstrates their incompetence. How often do you see boondoggles like this when two private sector companies write contracts with each other? Maybe it's because when a private sector buyer writes a contract, the contract guarantees delivery of the product. With the government, everything is "renegotiable".

          And let's get real. It's not like there isn't any backroom dealing going on here.

          The outsourcing model doesn't work for us.

          And the antiquated payroll system is evidence that the government can get it done itself?

        • Re:Corruption (Score:4, Insightful)

          by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @06:10PM (#31643062)
          you completely misunderstand the concept on such a staggering scale i can hardly reply.

          this is a CLASSIC example of why government is incompetent and corrupt, it has nothing to do with wether the job is being done by government employee's or a contractor. a government bureaucrat is the manager of this project, if this project is 7 years late the axe falls squarely on him, not the contractors he's allowed to milk the public purse. the government has bungled this by allowing it to continue, if this was a project being run at any private enterprise it'd have been shit canned years ago.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )

          This isn't government corruption. It's private enterprise. The idea is that government is fundamentally incompetent.

          But in this case, they are.

          The government hired these contractors who can't get shit done. The government has "renegotiated" the delivery date every single time the project has been late. I mean, seriously, what aren't you getting about this?

          Are the contractors to blame? Yes, of course. They shouldn't have taken work they couldn't complete on-time and on-budget. But the government is the one *

      • Yea, you're seeing it wrong, and seeing it right at the same time. Many of us do hate corruption and have a problem with things like this. However, there are also people who accepted the irresponsible and immoral "greed is good" philosophy. Greed now so rules their lives that they see evidence of greed in society as validation of their philosophy rather than recognizing that what is going on is actually costing them money and harming their own society.

        Greed has so blinded them that they become like dogs

      • Re:Corruption (Score:4, Insightful)

        by linebackn ( 131821 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:15PM (#31641314)

        It is obvious what is happening here.

        To me it is obvious what has happened here. Some years ago some one probably thought it would be a good idea to implement an automated timekeeping system, without doing a proper cost/benefit analysis, thinking they could just quickly drop some slightly customized system in place and never have to touch it again.

        Government agencies usually have many complicated and unusual timekeeping rules that sometimes even change. Often this is the result of various laws they have to deal with that private companies would not have to deal with. They almost certainly underestimated the amount of customization needed for a time keeping program like this, especially if this is based on an existing system that was never designed to deal with their kinds of rules.

        Don't blame on corruption what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    • by cgenman ( 325138 )

      How much oversight did the consultants have into the system? At this point, would it be possible to rescind payments for non-delivery, or give the consultants 6 months on complete on their dime or be blacklisted from all NYC / NY State contracts again?

  • I guess they need some kind of system to keep track of their timetables and salaries!
    • Yeah, I can not deliver that for a mere $200k/year, within, say 15 years? Anyone care to overbid me? That is how a contract like this works, isn't it?

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:25AM (#31639248)

    Isn't it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I've been in IT one war or another since the TRS-80 model 1.

      Regarding our fate as IT 'professionals' we had a saying then that still holds true, "Never have so many been paid so much to do so little".

      Good day.

    • by IICV ( 652597 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:29PM (#31640264)

      Yes, but you're forgetting something: in America, we are so terribly concerned that some poor person somewhere may be getting something they don't deserve that we're willing to put nearly a billion dollars in the pockets of rich people to ensure that the poor people stay in line.

      It's just good conservative fiscal policy.

  • Comment removed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:27AM (#31639266)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • You are trolling but you are not aware of it because you got a blind spot. Remember those banks that collapsed and took the whole economy with them? Private industry and filled with excessive salaries and people who get golden parachutes when they are "let go".

      About the only way to fix this is to cut management down. But what manager is going to say, "we don't need all these managers". I seen these kind of projects, they are pretty common. And it is always a case of management going out of control. You cou

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by superscalar ( 229943 )

      Of course this is disgraceful, but it's by no means limited to government - there's plenty of waste in private industry, we just don't hear about it as much. I have a friend who recently worked as a consultant for one of the big health insurers in California. She talked about a multi-hundred-million-dollar development project on a new IT system that they scrapped before implementing. You'd think someone could have pulled the plug before the project got into 9 figures.

      Of course, from a cost standpoint, he

      • ..there's plenty of waste in private industry, we just don't hear about it as much.

        One word. Dilbert.

        Its funny cus its true!

    • by ph1ll ( 587130 ) <> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:35AM (#31639768)

      I read TFA and saw that a private company called "Science Applications International Corp." was running the project.

      So, why is that people are blaming the government when it is the private sector that is wasting all this money? Sure, it's tax-payers' money but aren't we constantly told by various private sector financed think tanks that this public work is best outsourced to the private sector? Well, this is what happens, folks.

      And if you think the private sector is any better, you're living in a fantasy land. It's just that they are less liable to scrutiny. When corruption happens in private organizations, it gets brushed under the carpet. Why? Because it looks not only bad for the culprit (obviously) but also the guy who employed him - no matter that he had nothing to do with the scam. Everybody stay silent and nobody gets hurt, right?

      I've seen this soooo many times in the private sector - outsourced procurement agencies that charge $1000 for a $500 desktop, outsourced projects that were awarded to a consultancy that was (by shocking coincidence) run by the brother of the guy on the committee overseeing the outsourcing etc etc. In all these cases, it's hard to prove that actual fraud took place (eg, "well, we really did think this was the best offer when you consider all the factors").

      And nobody in a private organization is ever, ever going to be prosecuted for these scams. Why would they? Who wants to pursue such cases? The shareholders don't care about such small corruption even if they got to hear of it. The media are not interested (a private company can spend its money as it sees fit). And an employee is only going to ruin his career.

      • by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:49AM (#31639892)

        Without getting into the whole private/government bullshit debate, in this case it's because the government keeps paying them the money. If they discovered that the company they hired is useless the first year, they should've dropped them (or the whole project) and found somebody else, and not kept pouring money down the drain. But they kept doing just that, so that's their problem right there.

        • by ph1ll ( 587130 ) <> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @12:13PM (#31640090)

          It's a good point - but have you ever tried to take a project away from a vendor some way into the development life cycle?

          Outsourced IT consultancies are essentially organized labor. They have collective bargaining powers that can totally fsck you up if you look as if you may start causing them problems.

          Basically, you're the victim of a kind of intellectual lock-in. How motivated do you think the outgoing vendor is when transferring all its knowledge to you if they know their contract is not being renewed? They'll give the minimum amount of co-operation they're contractually obliged to. I know. I've been there :-(

          The best way of managing an IT project is to keep it all (or at least mostly) in-house. But this flies in the face of all those economic fundamentalists that were bleating outsourcing dogma in the early 2000s. The situation is slowly changing, but not fast enough.

      • SAIC? No wonder things are going badly on a grand scale...

        Those guys are masters of working the government outsourcing gravy train. At least those 500k a year developers who've failed to produce anything aren't members of a union, so it must be efficient, right?
    • I have a friend who was a teacher in California for a year. She was laid off and promptly given 2/3rds her previous salary in unemployment benefits. Pretty good for keeping the same employer and just not working anymore. If I tried that it would result in a 100% pay cut.

      If you tried it you'd be quitting, not laid off. Try to understand the difference.

    • Aaand it's a good time to mention that government employees make 30% more than non-government employees, [] and that doesn't include benefits (if you want to get around the paywall, check out this link []). This shows that in New York at least, the pay isn't spread around equally, some people are getting paid far more than their private-sector counterparts, so presumably others are getting paid less.

      The article mentions that in most states with deficits, if pay were more reasonable, it would easily close the d
    • by mellon ( 7048 )

      You're absolutely right. Corporate welfare is evil. We should stop it. Which party, and which candidates, advocate stopping it? Do you for them, or for their opponents?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      She was laid off and promptly given 2/3rds her previous salary in unemployment benefits. Pretty good for keeping the same employer and just not working anymore. If I tried that it would result in a 100% pay cut.

      Yeah, and there's not chance that you'd be able to get unemployment benefits, right? Or is it just that you object to the idea of unemployment benefits.

    • ``And yet many of the same people who will cry foul over this will be first in line telling the government it is morally obligated to provide X social program or prop up Y industry "for the good of the country." Surely that isn't a colossal waste, won't go to lining the pockets of consultants, won't get dragged down by graft, won't go over budget estimations, et cetera.''

      I think you're conflating two issues there. Allow me to explain.

      Your whole post is full of examples of government inefficiency. They are g

  • Cool.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:27AM (#31639270) Homepage Journal

    Where do i sign up?

  • by CyberDragon777 ( 1573387 ) <> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:27AM (#31639272)

    Coming Soon

  • This defense contractor SAIC is just a symptom of the special interests that are running this country. Multiple it by 1,000,000 and you understand why our country is going bankrupt. The nature of our DOE, NASA, and DOD budgets allow for this type of uncontrolled spending. People need to take charge of elections and actively support smaller and more responsive government.
    • This has nothing to do with "smaller" government and everything to do with exactly what you expect to be doing when you enter the working world as one of the "masses". "Business Management" people that don't have any relevant or useful skills at all that enter the workforce.
      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        This has nothing to do with "smaller" government and everything to do with exactly what you expect to be doing when you enter the working world as one of the "masses". "Business Management" people that don't have any relevant or useful skills at all that enter the workforce.

        Yes, I too expect to get a $500k per year contracting gig working but not working on a huge government project. Yes, it's all about the expectations, not who is actually squandering the money and how.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      Hm... If only you could get more than the SF or Tech Geek crowd riled up in a manner where we could get people to be that interested in fixing things by way of elections to do it. Right now, we've got the government we so richly deserve right at the moment because of the disinterest, etc.

    • People need to take charge of elections and actively support smaller and more responsive government.

      If only we had candidates that ran on a smaller and more responsive government without being sold out to special interest groups. Democrats are sold out to the copyright lobbies, and Republicans are sold out to the Christian fundamentalists. Independents rarely stand a chance.

    • The nature of our DOE, NASA, and DOD budgets allow for this type of uncontrolled spending.

      I think it's more of the fact that the people working at these organizations don't play hardball with contractors and make them finish on time and in budget. We need accountability measures that make these firms liable for budget overruns and late deliveries, especially ones that are so egregious.

  • I didn't RTFA, but according to Bob Cringely, this is basically IBM's current business model. Looks like it may be sustainable.
  • Problem = Managers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by magamiako1 ( 1026318 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:36AM (#31639352)
    If you RTFA, the people that are getting the highest salaries are "Project Managers". Generally these types of people don't know their ass from a hole in the ground and don't actually contribute to doing any work because they have no idea what it is they're doing. And these people are likely the reason the project isn't actually getting done. In fact, the people actually doing the grunt work on the project are likely making 10% of the stated figures.

    This sort of thing happens in many, many businesses. The difference is that many businesses aren't required to report those figures and even then they are under far less scrutiny. I assure you this is about par course for American business in general both public and private.

    There are better ways to do things, but until we vastly change the corporate culture that everyone is used to operating under we aren't going to see more efficiencies. The reality is that it's not the "government" wasting money here because this is what everyone that goes into these projects expects to be doing. And this is generally something that scales with said project; so cheaper projects get cheaper prices on management but it is still disproportionately higher than those that are doing the actual work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by magamiako1 ( 1026318 )
      I'm also going to play a bit of a devil's advocate here. If you were the project manager in charge of this project, and you had no relevant actual skill to doing anything productive, would you not milk it for what it's worth also?

      If you can milk over $500,000/year from a business (government is a form of business) over the course of a decade without anyone crying foul about it, would you not do it? The same could be said about $100,000/year. You end up with a stable job doing practically nothing and getting
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow ( 566160 )

      This sort of thing happens in many, many businesses. The difference is that many businesses aren't required to report those figures and even then they are under far less scrutiny. I assure you this is about par course for American business in general both public and private.

      Another "but business does it too" remark. There's a lot more difference than merely who business has to report to. Business isn't required by government to report these figures, but they are required by their Board of Directors to report whatever data the Board of Directors wants. Now maybe the BoD is too busy yacht racing or whatever to do their job. That is a problem of the owners of the business. Ultimately, the owners are the ones who lose out when a business gets out of control like this. That's how a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      Oh, it's government wasting the money. The problem lies within the inability to pull the plug when it's clear it's not coming together. Within that culture, there's an environment that encourages this sort of thinking you ascribe to the businesses. Why should they do any different. They can half-ass their way through things and maybe deliver a lurching horror, maybe deliver nothing- and still keep getting paid for it for the longest time.

      In the end, the business won, the government people got to pour

      • No, I think the project is a good idea--even if the actual cost of the project was $100,000,000 to produce. But you have to factor in that actual "cost" of the project. You see big numbers and you're like "wow that's such a waste of taxpayer funds!", but then if you look at the multi-year benefit of the project you go "hmm, maybe it isn't."

        The problem is very clearly the people involved in the project, and I don't necessarily mean the government employees either (though they are partially to blame), but I b
    • by sohp ( 22984 )

      the people actually doing the grunt work on the project are likely making 10% of the stated figures

      Based on my experiences, the PMs and a few other administrative and lead folks are the only ones in NYC itself. The grunts are off in Hong Kong, Bangalore, Mumbai, or Kiev

  • How hard can it be (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:40AM (#31639388) Homepage

    How hard can it be to program a computerized timekeeping and payroll system.

    230 highly paid people and it has been underdevelopment for over a decade?
    1 person should of been able to get it done in a decade.

    • well lets see

      1 tax and labor laws: what time gets paid for how much and how do you handle "off hours" work and various grades of over time/hazard pay/rush|time critical work

      2 multisite/multi "cost center" issues

      3 temporary/contract work

      4 "Family matters"

      5 International Concerns some bits of NYC are considered "foreign ground" so the laws of that Nation need to be dealt with

      6 type and format for the ~8,000 different forms all of this will need

      • even at that I'm wondering if 2 or 3 very competent coder and a handful of competent lawyers/accountants could get that done in a fraction of the time.
        Projects get tied up in cruft but by that point the guys in charge are afraid to just turn around and say "the code is crap, we made mistakes early on and we're never going to get this done. the only way is to start again and do it right." because that's admitting failure.

    • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:07AM (#31639576) Homepage

      Or buy one of the many solutions already available....for about the cost of 1 developer for 1 year.

    • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:21PM (#31642282)

      How hard can it be to program a computerized timekeeping and payroll system.

      Answer: difficult, but definitely doable in a reasonable time frame.

      However, you've obviously never worked on a big bureaucracy-driven project before, because you've asked the wrong question.

      Here's the correct question:

      How hard is it to program a computerized timekeeping and payroll system when the fundamental requirements change on a monthly basis, individual design changes are made weekly, all because there are fifteen project managers who believe they own the project, since the primary project manager who actually does own the project spends all of his time in asinine meetings with his bosses and doesn't know what the hell is going on?

      Answer: virtually impossible.

      All that situation needs are a bunch of blind fools in upper management to keep approving the extensions and cost overruns and you have the NYC CityTime project.

      It happens all the time in any sufficiently large bureaucracy, and the NYC government is definitely a sufficiently large bureaucracy. Note that this is not a private/public problem, it's a bureaucracy problem. The exact same thing happens to projects in large corporations (I work in a top 100 corporation and see this kind of thing happen all the time, though they are usually much quicker to pull the plug on a project than NYC is in this case).

  • by bradbury ( 33372 ) <> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:44AM (#31639412) Homepage

    Hell, I've got 15+ years of experience with computers and some big name corporations (e.g. Time Inc & Oracle) in my resume. I'd be willing to do the job of two of the consultants for half as much.

    The real question here is *who* is responsible for the project and is employing these people (who clearly seem to have no interest in getting the job done)? For example, if two or three individuals can rewrite a relatively robust DBMS (Oracle) in less than 2 years (circa 1983-84, the Oracle Version 3-->4 rewrite) having this many people not getting the job done in a decade screams to me of incompetence.

  • Consulting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by McGruber ( 1417641 )
    Consulting: When you're not part of the solution, there is good money in prolonging the problem.
  • by darjen ( 879890 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:19AM (#31639652)

    the sad thing is that the taxpayers put up with it. and many even defend it.

  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @11:25AM (#31639698)

    They are saving money, because any off-the-shelf time-tracking software would cost much more than $722 million. Oh, wait ...

  • Makes for wasteful governments. I am sure IBM or EDS could have quoted a system to take care of employee based on existing code and systems they had refined over decades.

    That is why they should do the least and let private businesses compete for tasks.

    It is sad that politicians and some in the public think government is THE answer.

  • First, I want to make it clear that I think these rates are ridiculous and I absolutely do not support them. However...

    The rates quoted are the rates SAIC is charging. They are NOT the rates the contractors are paid. The article is very misleading on this point and I'm surprised that this hasn't been picked up on here.

    If SAIC charges their client $600k per year for a consultant, SAIC is probably paying that employee, say, $140k. It's extremely disingenuous to state that these contractors themselve
  • Inaccurate story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BradMajors ( 995624 )

    The story is inaccurate. The City is not employing these persons and is not paying these persons a salary or any other type of compensation.

    The City has hired a company to perform the work and this other company is paying these persons some type of compensation. These persons will never see anything close to the stated "salaries".

    The rates being charged are not out of line with rates being charged elsewhere.

  • It sounds like someone might be constantly changing the specifications. I'm sure like all things political in New York (see rebilding WTC), the contract likely requires EVERYONE who touches the payroll to have a say in how it works. That, along with different trade unions and their contracts' idiosyncrasies, work/shift/OT rules, and I could see how it can become a mess.

    I'm paid hourly, and my company uses SAP for HR management. The idea is that all I should have to do is put my hours and on-call time in and

  • I love that one point of the system was to eliminate the age-old abuse of city workers punching clocks for their friends and save up to $60 million a year.
    A project to prevent the city from overpaying people for doing nothing is being overpaid to do nothing.
  • If you want something done by a contractor on a budget, get a fixed bid. That will give them incentives to move Heaven an Earth to keep the margins fat and timelines short.

    Of course the contract should include a series of binding quality criteria, else "fat margins" will equate to non-performing "product".

    I've been on both sides of the fence, and that's the best way for both contractor and contractee to have a fruitful relationship.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 )

      That or give them a guaranteed end date with penalties for going over. Either one works great.

      The biggest thing though, is knowing what you want/need ahead of time. More than likely the reason the project is still going on today is not because the contractors have been milking it (even though I'm sure they have been).

      This project has scope creep written all over it, and the best written contracts with the most honest and efficient company in the world will not be able to finish a project where the scope i

  • I believe its worth noting that SAIC was behind the disaster that was the FBI's Virtual Case File [] project.
  • There are plenty of people out there who will end up working productively for an entire lifetime for less money than these wastes of space have made on this one failed project. If we REALLY want to fix the economy, perhaps those people should be given a chance rather than laying them off so the living monuments to the broken window fallacy can get a raise.

  • by The Famous Druid ( 89404 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @05:32PM (#31642820)
    For those4 of you who are lucky enough to never have worked on such projects, here's how I.T. outsourcing works...

    1. Client calls for tenders on a vaguely-defined project.

    2. Outsourcing companies put in bids that are _very_ keenly priced. It's not unusual for the initial big to be a break-even, or even a loss-maker for the outsourcing company.

    3. Client chooses lowest bidder - even if other bidders are clearly better-qualified to do the job.

    4. Contract is signed, including a clause where any variance to the original spec is to be billed at $X per hour (typically several times the rate for the original work).

    5. Every frakking thing in the contract is then gone over with a fine tooth comb, and if any part of the necessary work wasn't explicitly specified, it becomes a variance. Meetings are called with the client to discusss these variances. At every meeting there will be 2 or 3 client representatives, and 6 or 8 contractor representatives, these meetings are billed to the client at $X per person per hour. The longer it takes to agree on the revised specs, the more the contractor makes.

    6. Actual work then commences. Inevitably, more ambiguities or outright bugs in the original spec are discovered. This leads to more very profitable (for the contractor) meetings.

    7. When the project is half way finished, there's a change in management at the client, and the new manager feels the urge to "make his mark" by having an organizational re-structure. Everyone gets new job titles, new business cards, new reporting lines. This requires changes to the software, which requires more meetings....

    The above describes an outsourcing project I worked on where the client was a large private business, where the client is government, you have a whole 'nother layer of bureaucracy adding far more opportunity for highly profitable (for the contractor) meetings.