HPE countersues RI over botched DMV project

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Hewlett Packard Enterprise has countersued the state of Rhode Island over the notorious and long-delayed R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles computer project that has cost the company tens of millions of dollars over the last decade.

In a court filing Monday, HP Enterprise asked R.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein to dismiss the lawsuit the state filed against it last month for its alleged failure to complete the project as required under their contract. The company is now seeking more than $14 million in damages for what it says are the state’s failures related to the project.

The two sides are due back in court Wednesday.

The original contract for the DMV project totaled $8.8 million, but HP Enterprise claims it has spent $46.9 million to build the system so far. The state has paid the company about $13 million for its work and is refusing demands to pay more. The system is still unfinished and is now scheduled to launch in mid-2017.

In the new court filing, lawyers for HP Enterprise argue its contract does not require the company to deliver a “fully functional system,” as state officials have frequently claimed, but only to carry out the design requests laid out by the state. The company also says it continued to work on the project beyond the time frame laid out in its contract because it expected to be paid more for the additional time.

The company also claims the state “had not mapped the vast majority of data that needed to be migrated” from the old computer system to the new one as of the project’s old Sept. 28 due date.

“HPE repeatedly warned the State that its failures to provide sufficient resources (in the form of staffing) to timely approve the data migration and other obligations would cause delays,” its lawyers wrote, adding that the state did not “provide an adequate number of dedicated employees” or put someone in charge of data migration.

Robert Hull, who oversees the DMV as director of the R.I. Department of Revenue, indicated the state’s position hasn’t changed.

“The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to deliver a complete and working computer system,” Hull said in a statement Tuesday. “It remains our expectation that, together with HPE, we will deliver the 21st-century computer system that Rhode Islanders expect and deserve.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram