Several of the issues raised by auditors during a recent review of the Harford County Information and Communication Technology Department can be “easily explained,” according to a county spokesman who nonetheless said he could not comment on specific details at this time.
The Dagger earlier this week revealed that auditors had found a number of irregularities in the department, including no-bid contracts of up to $250,000. Following up on that story, Dagger reporters were invited to contact acting department director Ted Pibil with further questions.
But a list of questions sent Tuesday to Pibil were answered instead by county management assistant Ben Lloyd, the acting spokesman for County Executive David Craig.
A list of irregularities and concerns were detailed in an undated agenda (reprinted below) of a meeting between auditors SB & Co. and county officials which was provided to The Dagger by a source. Lloyd said several issues were explainable, others less so. The simpler issues would be detailed in a forthcoming management letter, an analysis of an auditor’s findings prepared for a client.
“Some issues were identified during the annual audit process,” Lloyd wrote in an e-mail to The Dagger. “As is often the case with audits, some of the issues can be easily explained. This will be reflected in the management letter, when it is completed. In other cases, the issues warranted further evaluation.”
Lloyd said issues were initially raised during the routine annual audit of the department last year, and that Craig had taken a “proactive approach” and ordered a secondary audit of the department in mid-November upon learning of issues raised in the first audit. Lloyd said he could not comment on either audit as both remain underway, with reports to county officials not yet completed. He said the audits are expected to be completed “within the next couple of weeks.”
However, a third audit of the department will be required as a result of the departure of Justus Eapen, its former director. Eapen, a Bel Air resident, was confirmed to the position by a unanimous vote of the county council on July 12, but his “service with Harford County ended on January 17,” according to Lloyd, who would not specify whether he was fired or had resigned, citing it as a personnel matter.
However, sources told The Dagger that Eapen was in fact fired from his position. According to the county’s Department of Human Resources website, the “Chief-Information Systems Division” earns between $91,600 and $141,600 annually.
In either case, section 214 of the Harford County Code requires an audit be conducted, reading in part:
“Upon the death, resignation or removal of any County officer, the County Auditor shall cause an audit and investigation to be made of any accounts maintained by the officer and by the agency.”
According to Lloyd, Pibil was hired in June to the position of business architect with the department to oversee implementation of the county’s Enterprise Resource Planning system and to “perform other program management functions.” As acting director, he will now oversee day-to-day operations of the department as a cabinet-level advisor to Craig. Pibil was named to the position Jan. 17, Lloyd said.
However, Lloyd said Pibil was not involved either as a private contractor or a county employee in a personnel services contract to “update Twitter and Facebook for $49,800” which went to the “CEO of a technology company.”
“The contract referenced involved the development, implementation, and maintenance of a social media strategy for all of county government, and while Twitter and Facebook were a small part of that, the purview of the contract and the services rendered were more comprehensive,” Lloyd wrote in an e-mail.
Also unclear was the nature of the “significant number” of contracts the county reached with the company described in the agenda as “ESI,” and subcontracted to Hexaware. Hexaware is a global internet firm based in India which, among other services, provides IT outsourcing services.
At Eapen’s July 12 confirmation, County Council members praised the now-departed director’s abilities.
“Three years ago, Harford County was at the bottom third of all counties in this state in regard to its capability in information technology, known as IT,” county councilman for District C Jim McMahan said at the meeting. “The good news, under Mr. Eapen the department was streamlined, efficiency enhanced and we are truly doing more with less under his direction.”
“Mr. Eapen has saved Harford County several million dollars in less than a year that he has been acting director, while upgrading the system significantly,” McMahan added.
“I just know the name Justus because whenever anything goes wrong, that’s the guy you go running to first,” County Council President Boniface said following Eapen’s confirmation. “Not that he caused the problem, but you know he can fix the problem.”
The SB & Co. agenda follows: