SANTA FE (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) spent thousands of dollars to replace its older phones with new, high-tech ones but four years later hundreds of them are still in their boxes, collecting dust.
In 2010 NMDOT purchased 1,384 Internet based Cisco phones for $117,640 so districts across the state could keep connected.
According to NMDOT’s Cabinet Secretary Tom Church, the new phones use the Internet for calls eliminating expensive landline long distance costs. “They have a camera feature so you can do video conferencing, other than that they’re just a regular phone, only they use a different wiring system or internet system,” says Church.
All government entities are required to use the Department of Technology’s phone system but, four years ago when the previous administration purchased the phones for $85 each they didn’t realize the new system violated state statute.
Participation or exclusion of agency, department or institution
All departments, institutions and agencies of the state government to the extent that it is practical and feasible shall participate in the central telephone system. No agreement for any leased or purchased telephone service or for purchase of any telephone equipment shall be entered into by any department, institution or agency of the state participating in the central telephone system, except those institutions enumerated in Article 12, Section 11 of the constitution of New Mexico, except upon prior written approval of the secretary or the secretary’s designee. If, on the basis of a technical survey, it is found to be infeasible or impractical to include particular agencies, departments or institutions in the central telephone system, the secretary or the secretary’s designee may exclude them. In the event of exclusion of any agency, department or institution, the secretary or the secretary’s designee shall file a written statement, certifying the reasons therefor, with the state records center. (2011 New Mexico Statutes Chapter 9: Executive Department Article 27: Department of Information Technology Act, 9-27-1 through 9-27-25 Section 9-27-25: Participation or exclusion of agency, department or institution.)
Since then NMDOT worked out a deal with the state’s IT department to manage the Department of Transportation’s new system.
Today, 850 phones sit in their original boxes waiting to be installed in the Santa Fe office – more than $72,000 worth of new technology unused.
KRQE News 13 asked Church what’s taken so long. Church replied that the transferring of all the equipment is complicated, “We just haven’t gotten there yet. Ya know, phones don’t go bad.”
Others however like Republican Senator Mark Moores of Bernalillo County, say taxpayer money is not being put to good use.
“When we spend taxpayers’ money we need to make sure it gets out there and used for taxpayers’ benefit,” he said. “It can not collect dust, if it can’t be used at this department we need to make sure it’s used somewhere else.”
Unfortunately, NMDOT’s Cabinet Secretary said there’s no timeline when the new phones will be installed.