The San Juan Daily Star
Costly social alert app for 9-1-1 system not implemented due to botched contract
By The Star Staff
Despite investing thousands of dollars in a social alert application in 2015, the island’s 9-1-1 Emergency Systems Bureau failed to implement it because numerous mistakes had been made in the contracting process, a Puerto Rico Comptroller opinion showed Tuesday.
The comptroller issued an adverse opinion on the fiscal operations of the computerized information systems of the 9-1-1 Emergency Systems Bureau of the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety.
The tests carried out, as well as the evidence, revealed that officials did not carry out the operations related to the investment and payments for the emergency alert system of the Social Alert platform, in all significant aspects, under the applicable law and regulations.
Social Alert is an application that organizations, agencies and communities use to receive and send emergency alerts using smartphones. In addition, the application allows citizens to report emergency incidents in real time.
The comptroller’s report reveals that the 9-1-1 Bureau invested $167,750 in the acquisition of licensing and implementation of the Social Alert platform, which has yet to be of any use since it has only been in the test phase. In addition, officials failed to install a mobile application, the monitoring portal, the alert reports, and the educational portal.
The Bureau formalized a contract on May 6, 2015, for $869,000 to acquire the license and implement the Social Alert security platform for 9-1-1 emergencies. However, the contract, valid until May 4, 2020, was canceled on Dec. 6, 2016 after an internal audit report was revealed showing that officials failed to obtain certain quotes for the application and that neither a feasibility study nor a risk analysis study had been done. In addition, in December 2016, the director of the Bureau’s Information Systems Office established that the application was only in the testing stage, that the staff did not participate in the evaluation process, and that officials did not consider the requirements and standards of federal regulations when awarding the contract.
The situation is attributed to the fact that the director and deputy executive director at that time needed to carry out a necessity and feasibility study to analyze whether the platform met their operational and technological requirements. Those officials also did not request or review additional proposals in order to compare and evaluate the costs submitted by the contractor, the report notes.
The audit indicates that the Bureau approved the most costly and advantageous billing for the contractor. The then-executive director signed the contract with a leonine clause in which the Bureau had to pay $92,000 for the planning and development phase of the Social Alert platform, whose license was not exclusive and whose implementation cost $8,000. A leonine clause threatens the balance in contractual benefits, grants unjustified advantages and is contrary to the reciprocity of benefits. The comptroller’s report highlights that the Bureau should have demanded a final product that was functional and adapted to the existing systems.
The audit also reveals that the Bureau paid invoices for the various phases of the Social Alert platform, not to mention the programming carried out to make it functional. In addition, the contracted training sessions did not present the product, did not explain the use of the platform, and were not perceived as useful for call center telecommunications workers.
The audit recommends that the secretary of Justice advise the Bureau to carry out the necessary recovery actions.