Manatee school upgrades millions more than expected

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Work started in 2016 to upgrade the Manatee County School District’s core business operating software.  But now, nearly two-and-a-half-years later, the program still isn’t fully up and running.

“Their contract ends on Friday the and we’re still finding many aspects of the software not completely developed, deployed without bugs,” said District Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. 

That contact is with Ciber, the company implementing the software for the district.

An outside assessment of the project was just released, and reveals massive shortfalls, including millions of taxpayer dollars spent without authorization.

Officials say this investigation is far from being over.

“To review every aspect of what has occurred. To really get to the bottom of some of these expenditures, which appear to have been made, and payments have been made on amounts that were never brought to the Board for authorization,” said School Board Chairman Dr. Scott Hopes.

Right now, it’s not clear exactly how much money was spent. We’re told the mismanaged cash won’t have an impact on students, but could be diverted from other planned projects.

“We will hold those individuals responsible accountable to the public and to the taxpayers, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is meeting with us Wednesday morning, the State Auditor General has indicated that they are doing a financial audit of the project,” Hopes said.

Saunders says Ciber needs to finish the job the district paid for, even if the contract ends in a couple days.

“We are going back and evaluating really what is left to be completed,” she said.

Two weeks ago, the Deputy superintendent for Operations was placed on administrative leave.  Leaders won’t give many details, but it’s believed to be connected to the software issues.

Those problems, along with the contract with Ciber are set to be discussed at Tuesdays School Board meeting.