SACRAMENTO — After 100 hours of contradictory testimony, blame shifting and a couple of balky witnesses, the committee investigating a potentially costly state computer contract is about to wrap up its work — maybe.
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has scheduled what the chairman describes as a final hearing Monday on the $95 million, no-bid contract that the state signed last year with the Oracle Corp.
But at least one Republican member of the committee says the panel should consider holding more sessions. He predicts the other Republican members will agree with him.
“There is no agreement that Monday is the final date,” said Assemblyman Bill Leonard, R-Rancho Cucamonga. “The overriding question that started the hearings — how could such a contract be negotiated so quickly with so many questionable assumptions and lack of validations — is still unanswered.”
The long-term deal was supposed to save taxpayers more than $100 million through volume purchasing and maintenance of database software, but the state auditor says it could end up costing up to $41 million more than if the state had stuck to its previous software supply arrangements.
Oracle stoutly defends the contract as a fabulous deal, but the Redwood Shores-based company has begun talking to the state about how to rescind the agreement.
Critics complain that state officials never verified Oracle’s claims of big savings before signing the contract.
The committee’s chairman, Assemblyman Dean Florez, D-Shafter, says Monday will be the final hearing unless there is “startling new information” in the coming weeks.
“At this point in time there really is no new information. I think everyone has had their fair crack at the witnesses,” he said, noting that some witnesses testified two, or even three, times.
On Monday, the committee is scheduled to hear from three sales representatives for Logicon Inc., a seller of Oracle products.
Logicon proposed the contract to the state, was heavily involved in persuading state officials to sign it and is in line to collect $28.5 million if the agreement isn’t thrown out.
Florez is promising some “very intriguing testimony.”
“Talking to them is extremely important in understanding what they were trying to accomplish and why it is they got such a huge take,” he said, suggesting it may have been because Logicon had “strong connections” in the administration and Legislature.
Questioning will touch on a series of e-mails in which a Logicon employee, Rajan Mittu, talked about limiting the amount of background information supplied to the state, Florez said.
“We plan on giving Kim the least amount of data possible,” Mittu wrote, referring to Kim Heartley-Humphrey, deputy director for acquisitions at the Department of Information Technology. “At this point, giving too much information can only be a bad thing.”
In an earlier e-mail, Mittu said he wanted to be “careful in presenting any more information” because Debbie Leibrock, head of the Finance Department’s technology investment review unit, might put a “different spin on it.”
“I don’t want her to turn our message ... into ‘the state should not do this (software) license because they have not been buying enough users over the last three years,”’ he said.
Completion of the hearings will allow Attorney General Bill Lockyer to move ahead with his investigation to determine if any laws were broken in connection with the deal, Florez said.
The attorney general’s probe could include two witnesses who refused to testify to Florez’ committee, retired state lawyer Larry Kreig and former Oracle lobbyist Ravi Mehta.
Florez said both men cited their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, although they didn’t specifically mention that amendment.
The committee dismissed both witnesses rather than to try to compel them to testify by granting them immunity from prosecution.
The committee expected Kreig to contradict testimony by his former boss, Davis Cabinet member Aileen Adams, about whether he told her about flaws in the contract, but Kreig told a reporter earlier this month that he didn’t give Adams any warning about flaws because “there was nothing to talk to her about.”