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Iowa's IT Integration

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 2009-04-16 Print this article Print

Sharing information from disparate databases makes money for the State of Iowa.

For any government agency, a paradox has always existed when it comes to transactions involving contracted services: Vendors are owed payment for work delivered, but some of those same vendors owe money to their government customers, for various taxes, fines and fees.

In the case of state governments, databases that track payments owed and payments due are often maintained separately by a host of agencies, so it’s often difficult to stay on top of who owes what. In Iowa, this emerged as a critical issue, because state policy allows agencies to withhold payments to vendors that owe them money.

That’s why Iowa sought an IT system that would allow these payment databases—whether on the accounts payable or receivable end—to “talk” to each other, paving the way for agencies throughout the state to share information on vendor payment and debt obligation status. But with many of the debt records stored in mainframe files, such information sharing has been difficult.

“We needed to take all the information from databases, track what was owed to us and put in one ‘funnel,’” says Michael Tutty, who oversees Iowa’s IT enterprise architecture. “We needed to do the same thing for what we owed, and then we needed to cross-check the information in these two database funnels.”

Using an open-source integration platform from Jitterbit, Iowa has found a way to effectively track and manage these transactions. Called Vendor Offsets, the system incorporates workflow management tools to allow administrators to keep on top of which vendors still owe money to the state, regardless of which agency is involved. Jitterbit can reconcile these payments and allow the integration process to be shared through open source, making it easy for individual agencies to download the system and give it a try.

Since the system launched in mid-2008, about a dozen of the state’s agencies are now using Vendor Offsets, as well as nearly 100 county and local governments that work with state government administrators on these kinds of shared transactions. The system is expected to enable the state and local government agencies to collect up to $3 million per year in "We’re now looking to expand this to our state casino payment system in order to allow us to halt payments to winners who still owe us money,” Tutty says. “That could make a huge difference for us when it comes to revenue collection."

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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