Under the Dome

Audit: Elections board spent nearly $1 million for nothing

The state Board of Elections under the Gov. Bev Perdue administration paid nearly $1 million on technology for a new campaign finance system and received nothing in return, according to a report released Tuesday by the state auditor.

The money was paid in advance but upgrades to the system were never made, according to the audit. Contracts for the work were structured in a way that avoided three layers of oversight, and didn’t include deadlines or detailed descriptions of the work to be performed.

Auditor Beth Wood recommends legislators, the attorney general and the state’s chief information technology officer should consider strengthening contract practices to avoid it happening again.

The General Assembly in 2010 required the elections board to replace its campaign finance system. The following year, the board contracted with SOE Software Corp. and Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett signed amendments to two separate contracts.

The SOE was given the contract without competitive bidding, because elections officials at that time said the software couldn’t be provided or installed by any other vendor. Current elections board officials have told the auditor that other vendors or products could, in fact, have been found.

The work was split into two different contracts of less than $500,000 each, which is the amount at which they would have had to have been approved by two additional state offices. Also, the total amount was $988,786; contracts of at least $1 million have to be reviewed by the attorney general.

When the contract ended in 2013, the elections board asked the vendor to do the work through a new contract, the company refused, according to the audit.

“Under new leadership, the state board is more thoroughly scrutinizing its vender relationships to ensure contracts reflect present agency priorities,” spokesman Josh Lawson said in an email Tuesday.

The findings were part of a larger audit of major IT projects looking at the return on investment compared with the $1.2 billion in expected benefits in five departments. The audit found stage agencies didn’t track those benefits and didn’t follow a standard framework to manage its IT infrastructure.