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BCeSIS—$90 million and counting

Hansard, May 17, 2011

The minister of education, George Abbott, in debate in the Legislative Assembly, admitted that the cost of BCeSIS to the government so far has been $89,063,441. That is just the cost of licences and customization, Oracle software, operations and support and incentive grants to school districts.

The nearly $90 million does not include the costs to school districts--probably at least as much more when one calculates the cost of additional staff, training, upgrades or new purchases of hardware, as well as upgrades to networks within districts.

The minister rejected the comment of NDP education critic, Robin Austin, that "that's an awful lot of money for a system that still doesn't work."

The minister said Austin's "assessment that the system does not work is neither fair nor accurate. The system does work. It is a system which has had some challenges, but that is not uncharacteristic of large computerized systems to deal with the very large cohort of students."

He said the code system "has been corrected." He attributed the problems to BC being one of the first jurisdictions to try to build a centralized system for education tracking. Critics from the computer industry have, in fact, indicated that is one of the problems--too much was expected from a system not designed for centralized use for more than a half million students.

Abbott acknowledged that there still are no off-the-shelf systems that would do what was claimed for BCeSIS.

He mentioned that the ministry has hired the Gartner computer consultants to recommend "whether the best option might be to support the system internally, to have the ministry attempt to manage it or to introduce a new system in partnership with another firm."

Given the minister's defending a centralized system and acknowledging the lack of other off-the-shelf systems that can handle such a large number of students, it seems likely he will choose for the ministry to become software developers of BCeSIS.

Austin asked whether it was going to be necessary to use Freedom of Information provisions to get public access to the Gartner report and recommendations.

Abbott responded that "We expect it to be publicly available, likely posted on the website. We don't expect that people would have to go through any FOI process to have access to it."

Reference: Hansard, May 17, 2011.  

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