State drops $500 million to cancel a project

What’s the best way to save money in a time of tight budgets? Cut spending. Increase efficiency. And spend $500 million on a project you ultimately dump.

If that sounds stupid, it’s because it is. But it’s precisely what the California court system did when it tried to implement a state-wide computer system to connect all of California’s county courts.

The plan has been in the works for years. Back in 2004, the projected cost checked in at an estimated $260 million. By 2012, that figure had ballooned to a whopping $2 billion.

And that doesn’t include the other billion required for installation or the $391 million needed to manage the system over the next four years.

According the state auditor’s office, the project ran amok with too many change orders with contractors and subcontractors that ultimately led to the cost explosion.

The project began taking on water as soon as the cost projections began to rise. Some, like Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe, have been against the project almost from the start.

Lampe has long argued that now is not the time to implement the pricey system:

“We are closing courtrooms, we are laying off people we need to run the courts, and at the same time here they were spending this money.”

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was once a strong supporter of the system, recently dropped her support, too, effectively killing the effort.

That brings us back to the perplexing part of this story: the question of why $500 million was spent on a project that is being shut down. I guess that’s just the nature of working on, and then shutting down, such a poorly managed project. To kill such a bloated beast requires that you spill a lot of blood in the process.