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California bill echoes Oracle brouhaha

Nine months after the Golden State canceled a scandal-dogged contract with the software maker, legislators mull a reform bill designed to strengthen oversight of the state's IT projects.

Nine months after California canceled a scandal-dogged software contract with Oracle, state legislators met Tuesday to hear a bill that seeks to strengthen oversight of state information technology projects.

The measure, SB 791, was authored by Sen. Dean Florez, the legislator who led state legislative hearings last year into a $95 million no-bid Oracle contract. Under the contract, the state had agreed to license database software for more than 250,000 employees.

The hearings were prompted by a state audit report that estimated the contract would cost California $41 million, rather than save the state $100 million over six to 10 years, as Oracle contended.

Gov. Gray Davis and numerous state officials became embroiled in the Oracle contract probe when it was disclosed during the hearings that a Davis aide had accepted a $25,000 campaign contribution from the software maker just days after the state signed the ill-fated deal in 2001.

The bill, which has the support of the Davis administration, proposes the appointment of a state senate-confirmed chief information officer and the creation of an Information Technology Board to replace the now-defunct Department of Information Technology, whose head came under fire for his support of the Oracle contract.

The Oracle debacle eventually led to the dismantling of the Department of IT and the resignation of four high-ranking state officials who had taken part in negotiations with Oracle.

The new IT board would have the power to conduct public hearings on selected projects and would consist of the state's chief information officer, the directors of the Department of Finance and the Department of General Services, two legislators and two IT experts.

The bill reflects recommendations from state CIO Clark Kelso, who delivered a report to the Davis administration in February proposing a new IT governance plan, said Kevin Terpstra, a spokesman for Kelso.

"If this structure had been in place, the Oracle enterprise license agreement never would have been approved," Terpstra said. "It never would have seen the light of day."