Paper time sheets may soon be a thing of the past for city workers.
Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank - the man charged with dragging City Hall into the 21st century - is overseeing a massive investment in the city's technology program, an effort he says will make government more organized and cost-effective.
"The world changed, but the city never changed," said Frank, who testifies before City Council today for the budget hearing on his department. "In 2010, this is at best a 1995 to 1997 network."
Currently, city workers fill out paper time sheets instead of logging their work hours digitally.
The city network is unstable and equipment and software outdated. Many computers don't even have anti-virus software, Frank said. And residents can't easily access public information or do much city business online.
As part of Mayor Nutter's budget plan, Frank will receive $120 million in capital funds over six years, and will oversee a major consolidation of city personnel and money into a central division of technology. Frank said the money will be used to update the system and bring city work online.
Budget Director Stephen Agostini, who has worked in government for several other cities, said Philadelphia's information technology (IT) is behind the times.
"Right now, every department does manual time sheets," Agostini said. "When I was at the U.S. government, I never touched a time sheet."
Frank, a longtime technology professional who founded and ran an IT consulting firm, has been gathering data about the city's disorganized network and staff for 18 months.
When he started, Frank said, tech-support staffers were divided among 33 departments, all answering to different bosses. Some departments had IT directors, some did not. And the city's available equipment and infrastructure was sorely lacking - and again, not centrally managed.
"A lot of the IT people were focused on keeping old things running," Frank said.
Under the new plans, the department of technology's operating budget will jump from $41 million this financial year to $67 million next year, largely due to combining existing resources. And Frank will oversee 269 staffers in his department and a total of about 523 workers citywide.
Frank said that consolidating resources would make the city more efficient and ultimately reduce IT costs. And with the new capital dollars, the city will improve equipment and speed up online access for city workers, bring payroll and personnel data online and implement Web-based budgeting. The city Web site will also be overhauled, to provide more access to residents.
"What you're really trying to do is eliminate unnecessary work," said Frank. "Paper takes up a lot of space. It takes a very long time to find and retrieve."
Still, City Councilman Bill Green, who has long advocated for a more paperless government, questioned why the city wasn't counting on any savings as a result of the IT investment.
"It's preposterous for them to say we're spending $125 million to create efficiency, but we're not going to budget for any efficiencies," Green said.
Agostini said it was not possible to know exactly how much the investment would save.
"So much of this is such basic infrastructure," Agostini said.