- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - State Auditor Jim Zeigler on Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing the governor’s administration of breaking state bid law with a contract for accounting software that initially caused a large backlog of unpaid state bills.

Zeigler’s lawsuit claims the state wrongly awarded the contract by amending a 1982 contract without using competitive bids. Zeigler said he wants to both “explore” how the contract came to be and have the court void it.

“We will explore the damage which this failed software has caused and continues to cause to state agencies and taxpayers,” Zeigler said in a statement issued Friday.

The State of Alabama Accounting and Resource System, or STAARS, is the state’s new accounting system that handles state financial transactions. The debut of the system last year was riddled with glitches and left the state with a backlog of unpaid bills at the end of 2015. A spokeswoman for the governor said those problems have been fixed.

Zeigler said Friday that state agencies have also been unable to pay each other.

The lawsuit names Gov. Robert Bentley, Acting Finance Director Bill Newton, Attorney General Luther Strange and the system contractor, CGI Technology and Solutions, Inc. as defendants.

A spokeswoman for Bentley declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the issue of timely payment has been resolved.

“While there were difficulties last fall in adjusting to the new software, problems with paying vendors in a timely manner have been resolved, and all financial activity is now processing successfully through the system. The issues encountered that prevented payments from processing timely were resolved months ago, and there are no processing backlogs causing delayed payments today,” Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie R. August said in an email.

Doyle Fuller, an attorney that filed the lawsuit, said the issue is how the vendor was selected, not just the current functionality.

“At this point, it doesn’t matter if the STAARS program is running like a well-oiled Cadillac, it was illegally contracted. That’s the big problem. And the fact that it’s not functioning properly is a problem,” Fuller said.


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