SANTA FE (KRQE) - An independent commission that, by state law, is supposed to keep a close eye on the tens of millions of dollars the state spends each year on computer and technology projects hasn't met since Gov. Susana Martinez took office more than two years ago.
In fact, Martinez hasn't appointed even one person to the Information Technology Commission since being elected.
"If you don't have an appointed commission, how can they meet?" said Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, who is chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee. "It's so important that the department responsible for technology responds to someone a bit higher, which is the commission itself."
But Martinez said she held off appointing the commission because she wanted to consolidate the state Department of Information Technology into the much-larger General Services Department, thereby saving the state money.
"If that happened, that may have done away with that advisory commission," Martinez said.
The governor also said an internal group of employees from the information technology department – headed by the department's secretary – have kept track of state IT projects, so they haven't suffered from lack of oversight.
"We've got a lot of oversight mechanisms in place where we're working to be very vigilant in terms of overseeing these projects," said Darryl Ackley, information technology department secretary.
Still, examples of technology mismanagement – both new and old – are not hard to find.
In 2010, under former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration, the Motor Vehicle Department spent $5 million to try and upgrade the agency's 20-year-old computer system. But the project failed and the money went down the drain.
Now, the department is trying again, and must spend additional millions to try and upgrade the computer system.
Earlier this year, the Department of Workforce Solutions rolled out a new system for unemployed New Mexicans to get benefits online. But critics said the department was not ready for the flood of callers it received, and many were put on hold for hours.
Overall, the state has spent more than $90 million on technology upgrades in the five years. The independent Information Technology Commission – made up of governor appointees from technology, education and government sectors – was created by the state Legislature in 2007 to keep track of and over see those projects.
"Who can function without technology anymore?" Varela said. "Nobody. So we need to have this external oversight that looks at all of government."
Martinez has tried for the last four legislative sessions to consolidate the Department of Information Technology into GSD, but legislators never went for the idea. She also said the IT Commission, under Richardson, was ineffective, though critics said that's not an excuse to ignore state law.
Now, Martinez said she's finally working on appointing qualified members to the commission. She plans on having a full commission within 30-to-60 days.
A District Court judge has ordered city leaders respond to a petition filed by an animal activist on the city's trap-neuter-return approach of managing feral cats.
Police responded to dozens of weather-related crashes in only a matter of hours Sunday.
A small plane crashed at about 8 a.m. Sunday morning on the Canyon Rim Trail near N.M. 502 and the entrance of Los Alamos.
Sunday night in Albuquerque and around the world people gathered for candlelight vigils to remember the loss of their children.
Department of Agriculture officials are warning customers to not get burned when buying firewood.
Church groups, parents and teachers met Sunday at the 20th annual Albuquerque Interfaith Convention. State education reform was their central focus.