E-licensing switch a costly one

Albany — A switchover to “e-licensing” by the DEC is continuing to move forward, albeit with a hefty price tag.

DEC fish and wildlife officials said the changeover – which includes an interim system until the e-licensing system is fully online – will cost the department about $5 million in fiscal 2013-14.

The money will come from the state’s Conservation Fund.

That figure includes the cost to operate the existing Verizon system, which will be phased out later this year, replaced by an interim system until e-licensing is in place.

“The estimated cost for 2013-14 is $4.9 to $5 million,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said.

In that fiscal year, DEC will be paying for three systems – the existing Verizon system, an interim system until the changeover is set, and the e-licensing system.

Stang said the change from the current DECALS system operated by Verizon to the interim system designed by Accela is scheduled for the end of this year – no later than Jan. 1, 2014.

“We are currently looking at a ‘go live’ date for the new Accela system in late November, with a full transition to that system by the beginning of 2014,” he said.

Work is in progress in developing the new system “such that there is no noticeable changeover to e-Licensing when it occurs,” he added.

DEC’s new e-licensing system is expected to be fully operational in 2016-17.

The plan is actually a product of then-Gov. David Paterson’s Shared Services Initiative to Streamline State Government. State licensing agencies, such as motor vehicles, will ultimately operate under a single licensing system.

Amid the state’s ongoing financial crisis, the Office of Taxpayer Accountability and Division of Budget wrapped the sporting license program into that plan.

It has triggered some concern among members of the state’s Conservation Fund Advisory Board, as well as DEC fish and wildlife staff who contend it’s not quite as simple as state budget officials may believe.

Too, they want to be sure sportsmen still receive the same level of service now provided by the DECALS system.

During a report to the CFAB last month, Stang indicated progress is being made on many fronts.

“The Accela staff (on site at DEC’s Albany headquarters) are really good,” he said. “They have, to date, incorporated DEC staff suggestions for system and work flow improvements to the extent that they can without great amendment to the overall system.”

Still, numerous issues remain. For example, New York State Tax and Finance, the agency identified in the plan to handle DEC’s call center, doesn’t have the needed computer security built into its systems to handle credit card sporting license sales over the telephone.

To date, that issue has not been resolved. Stang estimates about 35,000-40,000 licenses are sold over the phone annually.

Also, not all the data can be transferred from the Verizon system to the new system. Stang told the board DEC and information technology staff are working on a solution to access that information in the future “to resolve potential customer issues if they arise.”

Once the e-licensing system is up and running, DEC’s cost will be about $955,000 annually, plus an additional $485,800 to operate DEC’s parallel system.

There was a misconception earlier this year that the restructuring of sporting license fees was responsible for at least some of DEC’s bill for the e-licensing transition. That, however, is incorrect. There is no additional cost resulting from the overhaul of the state’s hunting, fishing and trapping license fee structure, which takes effect next February.

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