Anchorage Assembly approves external software project audit

The Anchorage Assembly approved an external audit of the troubled SAP software project Tuesday night while raising pointed questions about the project's future.

The audit proposal, co-sponsored by Assembly members Amy Demboski and Elvi Gray-Jackson, passed in a 7-4 vote. The proposal requested $200,000 for an independent review of the implementation of SAP, which has so far been marked by cost overruns, missed deadlines and staffing problems. The software is designed to automate many functions of city government.

While the Assembly approved one audit of SAP, it delayed another. The Sullivan administration was preparing to pay $750,000 for SAP, an enterprise software company headquartered in Germany, to conduct its own "quality assurance" audit. A team of consultants was set to arrive in Anchorage on Oct. 27 and spend three weeks interviewing project team members.

It's no longer clear when that is expected to happen. Assembly member Bill Starr asked for the matter to be tabled until Nov. 5 so it could be reviewed by the Assembly audit committee, which he chairs.

Demboski and other Assembly members also voiced discomfort with the company essentially auditing itself, though representatives of SAP's North America branch said in a recent work session that the audit is conducted by an independent organization within SAP.

In an interview, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said the delay in bringing in SAP consultants would hurt the project's momentum.

"Any delay is not good," he said.


Several Assembly members said they wanted to put brakes on funding the project altogether until an audit is completed. The 11-member body was sharply divided on whether to support increasing the project budget through a $3 million loan.

The loan was ultimately approved after the municipality's chief fiscal officer warned that failure to do so would abruptly end the contract of the project consultant. The money covers the payout of $1.5 million over the next three months to the consultant, the Peloton Group, for the last three months of the year; the planned quality assurance audit by SAP; SAP product licenses; and other project management costs.

Metal fences banned

The Assembly also narrowly voted Tuesday night to ban metal palisade fences shorter than 7 feet. The measure was sponsored by South Anchorage's Jennifer Johnston, who brought it forward on the request of residents in her district, who were alarmed about reports and photos of moose gored on sharp pales.

According to area biologists, the fences are responsible for the goring of two to four moose a year.

Several Assembly members who voted against the proposal complained about government overreach.

"This is government running amok," said Assembly member Dick Traini of Midtown. "I'm sorry. There's no children hurt with this. And we don't represent the moose."

Anchorage area biologist Jessy Coltrane testified at the hearing, calling the moose gorings preventable and "a relatively traumatic ordeal for everybody involved." She said she has a scar on her leg from an episode involving a moose and a palisade fence.

The measure does not make exceptions for industrial or commercial areas. Already-existing metal palisade fences in Anchorage are grandfathered in, but the ban will apply if a fence owner seeks to make modifications.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.