County Councilmembers today criticized the lack of progress on Montgomery County’s proposed "e-commerce" program that would permit County residents to use the Internet for County government transactions.
"Nine months after the County Executive held a much-ballyhooed press conference and six months after the Administration agreed to pursue contacts with outside vendors to process the e-commerce, there has been zero progress other than hiring a project manager," said Councilmember Marilyn Praisner, chair of the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee.
"I guess we are going to have to drag the County Executive into the 21st century," said Praisner. "Our county has one of the highest on-line rates in the nation. We can’t afford to lag behind where matters of technology are concerned.
"We all agreed to move ahead in September with an approach that could bring the services County residents want – at a reasonable price. "
Last May, the County Executive proposed a $1.1 million program to have the county establish an in-house "e-commerce" system – a system that could have cost the county up to $55 a transaction in processing fees.
The Council opted instead – and the County Executive agreed – to explore outsourcing "e-commerce" on-line payments to private providers. This is what Fairfax and Arlington counties now do – at little or no cost to county taxpayers. The Council did approve $300,000 to develop software and put County tax information on the Internet.
Representatives from the County Executive’s office admitted to the committee that the "major achievement" to date had been the hiring of an "e-commerce" project manager and that there has been limited contact with private vendors.
"We have companies located right under our nose who want our business and are already doing this for other governments," said Councilmember Phil Andrews. "Let’s get going."
"I’m disappointed," said Councilmember Betty Ann Krahnke. "Other counties are moving forward while we are falling behind. I am especially anxious to have permitting service functions on-line."