NBC12 Investigation: Emails detail problems paying city bills - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

NBC12 Investigation: Emails detail problems paying city bills


NBC12 is uncovering new information about problems reportedly caused by a software program, which cost the City of Richmond almost $20 million of taxpayer money. Almost three weeks after our story about the RAPIDS software that was supposed to stream-line business transactions aired, complaints continue to be entered.

Sources say the city is paying bills late and in some cases, so far, not at all. Ironically enough, one of the agencies having trouble using RAPIDS to pay for services exists partly to hold others accountable in paying debts.

NBC12 was able to obtain stacks upon stacks of emails and letters among the city finance department, city agencies and vendors expecting to get paid by Richmond.

Insiders say the new RAPIDS software, which financially touches every city agency and every employee, would help get that task accomplished. That includes Richmond's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, where judges hold you accountable if you fail to pay obligations like debts, court costs and child support.

An email we've obtained from the court's chief operating officer to Richmond's finance department says, "I remain concerned the court will not be able to spend its money when needed through next June."

Early on after the launch of RAPIDS, even the chief judge weighed in. He warned the city's head of finance after finding the person tasked with helping implement RAPIDS "virtually unresponsive." Judge Richmond B. Campbell detailed "past due invoices" and grave concerns "about the disruption in receiving critical services."

Last month, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Finance Sharon Judkins acknowledged there's a problem.

"The issue I still say is one that we are working with everyday and we're focusing on very hard is to ensure that the vendor payments are being made," she explained.

Now, we've learned at a meeting last Thursday the department tried to reassure agencies, which need to pay vendors with city money. Officials explained some solutions and asked for recommendations, but no timeline for a complete fix was discussed.

Late Monday, we received a statement in response to our request for an update on the situation.

"Issues related to vendor payments are not a Rapids system problem," Judkins disagreed. "The issue is the business process of paying vendors and that is an area of ongoing training and improvement, and we have made progress in this area. As we continue to process current invoices, we remain focused on eliminating the backlog and we have instituted additional training and resources to accomplish this goal."

At the same time, we're told the city auditor's office, which brought to light many of the issues with RAPIDS, is still waiting for additional response from the chief administrative officer on its report.

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