An IBM-led SAP implementation at two councils and a police authority has become a political matter in the run up...
to local and European elections on 4 June.
Somerset County Council, which is part of a joint venture Southwest One, says it has ceased to answer questions on the SAP implementation because it is a political matter. The council wants to avoid saying anything which could affect the views of voters in the run-up to the local elections.
But, despite the electoral "purdah", the SAP implementation is expected to be hotly debated at a full meeting of the county council tomorrow.
Since Southwest One went live with the first phase of SAP on 1 April 2009 there have been conflicting views on its success.
The council says that SAP will help transform the council's front and back-office and will cut costs. It says that problems since the go-live are "teething" and that significant progress has made to resolve them.
IBM says one of the benefits of the SAP CRM is that it will enable staff at Somerset County Council and at another of Southwest One's partners, Taunton Deane Borough Council, to cut the time they take to answer phone calls by an average of 8%.
But some council staff say that some large payments are taking much longer, cost more to process than before and some large invoices are being paid without proper checking to clear a backlog.
Computer Weekly has learned that Somerset County Council has asked Southwest One to produce a recovery plan that "addresses the areas not delivered [at the go-live] and those service areas affected".
An e-mail this month from a corporate director at Somerset County Council, David Taylor, to a local councillor Paul Buchanan, says: "Our service order for the delivery of SAP contains a description of the system and the project 'deliverables'. We are constantly monitoring the progress of [SouthWest One] and IBM in respect of this agreement."
If a post project review shows that the required deliverables were not achieved, "we will be speaking with [SouthWest One] and IBM in respect of the matter, where compensation, if appropriate, will be covered".
A spokeswoman for Avon and Somerset Police - another main member of the SouthWest One joint venture - declined Computer Weekly's invitation to say that the authority is generally happy with the SAP go-live.
She said: "The SAP implementation is hard work but we are pleased with the progress we are making and looking forward to the efficiencies it will bring."