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State Water Board Seeks Software Information

In a new request for information, the California State Water Resources Control Board wants to hear from IT vendors on financial management software.

The dam on Lake Oroville with the lake in the background;
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One of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s six entities is seeking information from vendors regarding new software.

In a request for information (RFI) released May 16, the California State Water Resources Control Board wants to hear from IT companies about “financial management software” (FMS). According to its 2023 Strategic Work Plan, the board’s mission includes preserving, enhancing and restoring the “quality of California's water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses,” and ensuring its proper allocation and efficient use. Among the takeaways:

  • The Water Board has shifted during the past decade from being primarily funded by the state General Fund to a “fee-based” funding structure for most services and programs. Its administrative systems had been “moderately satisfactory” in tracking revenue streams but those needs become more complicated after the transition and needed “more robust functionality and connectivity.” The Water Board has nine water quality programs, each with different fee schedules and some with sub-programs, and it levies nearly $150 million in permit fee revenues annually from about 40,000 dischargers. Its Division of Administrative Services (DAS) is charged with making sure the right fees get collected and the Accounting Branch must ensure permit fee revenues get applied to the right programs — a reconciliation that is a “critical business function.” The FMS it seeks will be used by DAS’ Fee and Revenue Branch, as well as by Accounting Branch staff and leaders.
  • The volume of Water Board billing and the sums it collects increase annually; and it “faces and will continue to face difficulties supporting this level of activity into the future,” per the RFI. Its receivables systems “have become an inevitable part of our core accounts receivable functions.” These systems have data that is uncaptured by the Financial Information System for California, the state’s “system-of-record,” or they “compensate for FI$Cal reporting limitations.” As a result, Water Board processes must continue to “provide functionality for establishing customers, generating invoices, late notices, entering and collecting receivables” — and for processing payments, with interfaces to FI$Cal and other high-level systems. DAS is spearheading the RFI “to understand what products and/or services may be available,” according to the RFI, and gauge market conditions and how much funding may be needed for future work. DAS seeks, generally, a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or software-as-a-service (SaaS) financial management software (FMS) system that can offer accounts receivable and billing applications software. The project would also entail installing and configuring the application, interface and report development, testing, operation, and training and maintenance — plus upgrades and help desk support.
  • The Water Board uses five systems to calculate and track billings and accounts receivables: FI$Cal, the state’s accounting system; its existing FMS, a COTS system customized to Water Board needs about 13 years ago; the California Integrated Water Quality System, a web-based app that tracks information on places of environmental interest and manages permits; the Stormwater Multiple Application and Report Tracking System, a web-based system to enter stormwater data; and the Annual Fee Billing System, which was developed internally to support billing. It envisions a future environment with an FMS capable of supporting critical functions including centralized or decentralized billing; multiple methods of applying cash; data management with custom aging classes and analysis; the ability to report information in a variety of ways; to track and report financial and statistical data; and with secure access at a transaction and account level with role-based security.
  • System requirements include, in application architecture, an FMS with little or no customization and the ability to take in completed billing calculations, produce invoices and record accounts receivable transactions; and in interface requirements, the ability to interface with a variety of state systems either through “custom development or application programming interface” or a combination. In the technical environment, the system must conform to the Water Board’s existing technical environment and information systems standards unless an exception should be granted. Respondents must offer “minimum and recommended hardware configurations and necessary software” required for the COTS application software. This includes operating system and database software. The Water Board “will procure hardware and system software separately and install them” in its environment. No information now in the existing FMS is confidential, but the new system may be deployed to programs with “more stringent confidentiality requirements.”
  • The Water Board cautions the RFI is for “informational and planning purposes only and does not constitute a solicitation.” Responses will not be considered as offers and can’t be accepted by the Water Board “to form a binding contract.” Questions on the RFI are due by 4 p.m. June 1 and responses will come by 4 p.m. June 5. Responses to the RFI are due by 4 p.m. June 12. Product demonstrations — optional and if deemed necessary — will follow but a date/dates have not been set. The RFI process is expected to be complete by 4 p.m. June 23.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.