When it comes to finding and accessing city services online, San Diego has a pretty bad app for that.
So says a newly released report by city auditor Eduardo Luna, entitled "Performance Audit of IT Web Services."
"The City does not have a strategic direction or policy initiative for online service delivery," says the audit. "The City’s strategic plan does not address online services, nor does it have clear goals to propel the development of web services."
Worse yet, Luna says, "Previous City administrations have not made developing or implementing online services a high priority even though the local business community has communicated a desire for more online services."
Online services are difficult to locate and the online services list is incomplete.
As of September 2013, the City website offered 52 online services, but less than half of them are accessible from the homepage drop-down list labeled Access Online Services.
To find some of the online services, a user would have to know which department offers the service, navigate to the department’s webpage, and then locate the link to the service.
In February of last year, following testimony from the San Diego business community, the report says, the city council's committee on Economic Development and Strategies requested that the staff of then-mayor Jerry Sanders come up with "a preliminary assessment, including cost estimates, for a comprehensive Citywide strategy for making the City’s website more customer friendly by optimizing online services."
Mayor Sanders’ staff explained that the request would involve multiple departments reporting back to the Committee individually in the future. No further action was taken in subsequent committee meetings.
Mayoral direction hasn't improved since then, the report notes, leaving San Diego behind many other municipalities cited for their online access.
Cities nationally recognized for their online services by the Center for Digital Government such as: New York, New York; Riverside, California; and Louisville, Kentucky, demonstrate that mayoral leadership and clear goals propel the development of online services.
San Diego's mayoral foot-dragging has also hindered municipal tax and fee collections, the findings say.
One consequence of the decentralized and incomplete listing of online services is that the usage rates for the services may be lower than they could be.
For example, while users could pay parking tickets online, the City Treasurer reports that less than half of all parking violations are paid online. In addition, half of all businesses pay City taxes via mail or in person, rather than online.
A December 6 response to the audit from the city's Stacey LoMedico, assistant chief operating officer, and Jeff Leveroni, director of information technology, agrees with many of the findings, and then proposes a familiar city hall solution to resolve the problem: dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to pay for a new hired hand.
Upon the election of the next Mayor, and with the support of the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, the Department of Information Technology will propose acquiring Web consultant services to evaluate the current SanDiego.gov format and technology, and propose a "best practice" strategy that will result in a service-centric, SanDiego.gov website.
No cost is given.