Murray calls for more oversight on state IT systems

Senate President Therese Murray.
Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe
Senate President Therese Murray.

The state’s troubled information technology infrastructure needs upgrades and increased oversight, Senate President Therese Murray said Thursday, part of a growing response from Beacon Hill leaders to failures with some state IT systems over the past year.

Murray referred to issues with the state’s unemployment insurance system — which incorrectly cut hundreds of jobless workers from their benefits — and the state’s online health insurance marketplace, which, since it was revamped to comply with the federal health care overhaul, has left thousands of consumers frustrated and many without coverage for months.

“With the difficulties demonstrated by the recent large-scale IT projects, we are seeing the serious consequences that come with having inefficiencies and lack of oversight in all our systems,” Murray said in a speech at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast.


She said a forthcoming Senate bill would include provisions requiring greater centralization of IT oversight, greater consistency in developing initiatives and reviewing contracts, and more checking to make sure projects are ready for prime time.

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“Before we let projects go live,” Murray said, “protocols must be tested as early as possible to make sure they are carefully designed, complete with backup plans in case problems arise.”

A Murray aide said more specifics about the contours of the bill would be released soon.

Jesse Mermell, a spokeswoman for Governor Deval Patrick, said the governor looks forward to working with the Legislature on the issue.

“We have not yet seen the Senate’s proposal relative to IT reform, but the Governor shares the Senate President’s commitment to ensuring that we have the best policies and procedures in place to deliver the highest quality services for Massachusetts residents,” she said.


In its yearly budget, passed last week, the state House of Representatives also aimed to bolster oversight of IT projects throughout state agencies. It included a provision that all IT contracts must be approved by the state’s chief information officer, according to an aide to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. The budget was not yet available for review online Thursday.

The Globe reported last year that a flawed contract negotiated by state officials for a computer system for unemployment claims provided little oversight of consultants and few protections for taxpayers after the site malfunctioned.

During her speech, Murray also came out in support of legislation that would green-light a massive expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.

She said she supported the “plan to expand the BCEC and build new hotels near the facility, as it will bring immediate and significant economic benefits and opportunities for residents in Massachusetts.”

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority put forward the $1 billion plan in October, which would increase the meeting and exhibit space at the South Boston hall by 60 percent. DeLeo said he was in favor of it last month. Mermell, the Patrick spokeswoman, reacted warmly to the plan, saying in a statement its proponents “have made a convincing case for the need to encourage development of hotels and to expand the BCEC.”


Murray said the expansion would have broader ramifications than just making the state more business-friendly.

The BCEC “expansion will undeniably serve as a great boon to our economy, but more importantly, it will show that Massachusetts isn’t just a small New England state, but a player on the world stage,” Murray, a Plymouth Democrat, said before a room packed with top Massachusetts business and political leaders at The Westin Copley Place.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.