- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. | A massive failure of the state’s problem-plagued centralized computers continued to hit several state agencies Tuesday, making it difficult for Virginians to get a driver’s license or file tax returns and make payments.

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency has been trying since Wednesday to fix the computer outage that affected nearly 30 state agencies. The outage also prompted Gov. Bob McDonnell to call for an independent third party to investigate the problems, including whether contractor Northrop Grumman should reimburse the state for lost business and productivity.

As of Tuesday, computer problems continued to affect the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Taxation and the State Board of Elections. Other agencies also were experiencing minor issues relating to the failure at VITA’s large suburban Richmond computing center, one of several data storage systems in different parts of Virginia.

Teams are trying to get all the agencies completely up and running and are making significant progress, Virginia’s Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey said in a statement. He asked for “continued understanding and patience of state employees and citizens as this work continues.”

The outage has left people unable to get or renew driver’s licenses or identification cards at the DMV’s 74 customer service centers. About 5,000 license or ID cards expired as of Monday without being able to be renewed, spokesman Melanie Stokes said.

Virginia State Police won’t be ticketing people who were unable to renew their licenses since last Wednesday because of the outage, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a statement. On Tuesday, the agency extended that for all drivers whose licenses expire through Sept. 30.

At the state tax department, the outage prevented taxpayers from filing tax returns and making payments. But any filings or payments that are late because of the computer problems will not be assessed penalties or interest, the agency said on its website.

The State Board of Elections‘ voter registration database was unavailable due to the outage, said Susan Pollard, a spokeswoman for the agency.

“We recognize the Commonwealth cannot afford to be without the services of its critical agencies and we are grateful for the patience of the agencies and their customers throughout this event,” Sam Abbate, vice president of the VITA Program for contractor Northrop Grumman, said in a statement Tuesday.

VITA and Northrop Grumman have been criticized in scathing reports from the General Assembly’s investigative arm, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, for cost overruns, service outages, slow service and delays that have paralyzed state agencies numerous times since the agency was established in 2003.

VITA’s 10-year, $2.4 billion contract with the government contracting giant is the largest in state history with a single vendor.