Will RI DMV Rollout Be Another UHIP?

Friday, June 09, 2017


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Governor Gina Raimondo's administration has been plagued by technology missteps

The early signs for the rollout of the new Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicle computer system are not good. Presently, social media is littered with bleak stories of waiting times. Now, before the new system goes live, state officials are forewarning that there may be major problems.

The new system has cost more than $20 million and has been plagued by lawsuits between the State of Rhode Island and the vendor DXC (former Hewlett-Packard Enterprises).

"[We are urging folks to take alternative actions because] it's more about giving the customer service reps, who have to train on the system, the chance to familiarize themselves in live time. From that technical aspect, by drawing in the operations to Cranston -- which does all the transactions,” Paul Grimaldi, Public Information Officer, R.I. Department of Revenue.

The new system is scheduled to be operational on July 5, 2017.


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Photo from an Oversight Committee hearing investigating the failed UHIP rollout

Another UHIP?

Prior to the launch of the new system, the DMV is urging Rhode Islanders to be ready for delays, go to AAA or wait until the system launches.  DMV officials acknowledge they are aware of other recent failed Rhode Island technology issues.

“We're well aware of the history of state technology rollouts - my own memory goes beyond the project that remains nameless. We struggled at taxation, but they worked to get things right,” said Grimaldi.

The $400 million UHIP healthcare infrastructure has been a debacle. In February, Governor Gina Raimondo apologized for the system’s failure, fired or demoted key staffers and promised improvement.

In May, however, the ACLU claimed that RI Department of Human Services had shown no improvement regarding the timely processing of SNAP (food stamp) applications.

“This most recent report indicates that the state clearly needs to take stronger and immediate action to achieve compliance. Our organizations will also be considering the steps we must take to make sure that hungry Rhode Island families and individuals receive in a timely manner the food stamps to which they are entitled as a matter of federal law,” said Lynette Labinger, volunteer attorney for the ACLU. 

Grimaldi said that he has not briefed the Governor on the DMV rollout, but said others have. "I haven't talked with her about this project myself, she's been briefed regularly through (Rob) Hull and (Walter) Craddock and she will have one or two more detailed briefings. She needs to have a comfort level in what they'll tell her," said Grimaldi. 

Raimondo had defended the botched rollout of UHIP in the fall of 2016, and had said in an interview on talk radio that even Apple has problems when they rollout a new phone.

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Horrific DMV Lines This Week

This week, social media in Rhode Island has been filled with stories of long lines and an inability to get services at DMV.

While some posts by Rhode Islanders, attempting to use the DMV, have reported hours-long waits, the average-wait time reported by the DMV last week hovered around one hour -- which is due to the fact that the state only begins counting "wait time" when someone gets a service ticket, which has its own lengthy line just to get. 

Grimaldi acknowledged that the DMV has been taxed and lines have been long, “We know this is frustrating for people. We don't take this lightly. Please remember, we have to take employees off the service line to train them on the new system. We don't have a reserve pool or part-timers we can use to fill in those gaps.”

“It's crowded at the DMV this week - people all already taking action. I know it's a disruption to wait 4 hours, and we know that there will be waits when information will be set up and secure and migrated into the news system as we bring it up. So by [people] doing it early, it lessens the strain as we anticipate the launch,” said Grimaldi.

Proper Testing?

The DMV claims that have properly tested the new system and are confident that the rollout will be effective or they will pause the rollout.

“All of our user acceptance testing has been completed. We have 68 interfaces -- which are two-way connections between us and say AAA, and us and police. All of those have been tested and accepted on both ends with the exception of two -- they're not at top of critical list. Top of list are law enforcement. A couple of municipalities are continuing to work through it,” said Grimaldi.

“Our employees have been waiting a long time for this new system to come into place,” said Walter Craddock, DMV Administrator, “They are eager to leave behind an outdated system and move to work on a modern, unified, system that will help them serve Rhode Islanders more efficiently and faster. We expect, the in the coming months, Rhode Islanders will begin to see the benefits of this new system with expanded online services and shorter wait times here in Cranston and at our branches across the state.”


Related Slideshow: RI Sues Hewlitt Packard on DMV System


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