Iowa Senate approves $21 million for Workday computer system

Gov. Kim Reynolds had tried to fund the upgrade with coronavirus relief money, but was rebuffed by feds

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference, Tuesday, Sept.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to spend $21 million from the general fund on a new computer system

Gov. Kim Reynolds in July tried to use coronavirus relief money for the Workday system, but the U.S. Treasury Department and the state auditor told her it wasn’t allowed because the system wasn’t necessitated by COVID-19 and was in the works before the pandemic.

Senate File 284 passed 32 to 17 with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats present opposing. The measure still would need passage in the House to become law.

Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, said Iowa needs to replace its antiquated human resources and finance computer system. He defended the state selection of Workday, a California company, and said smaller-scale Workday implementations at Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Transportation have gone well.

“Pam Cain is responsible for implementing this at Iowa State University,” Kraayenbrink said. Cain told him “Workday is not a bad program.”

The Gazette reported in February 2020 Iowa has signed a $50 million contract with Workday after sidestepping traditional competitive bidding procedures to choose a company with little state government experience whose lobbyist, Jake Ketzner, is Reynolds’s former chief of staff.

Planned rollouts of the Workday systems at ISU and the DOT were delayed, The Gazette reported.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, on Tuesday introduced an amendment that instead of spending $21 million on the software system would spend the same amount on food banks and food programs, which have struggled to support more hungry Iowans during the pandemic.


“The state has more pressing needs right now than buying accounting software from an out-of-state corporation represented by our radical governor’s former chief of staff,” Bolkcom said. “You can’t eat software.”

The amendment failed.

Iowa’s Workday Timeline

Sept. 26, 2016 — Iowa State University signs $17.6 million contract with Workday, a California-based software company. It’s later announced in the Iowa State Daily newspaper.

Sept. 21, 2017 — Iowa Department of Transportation signs $9.4 million contract with Workday, piggybacking on financial terms set by ISU contract.

June 8, 2018 — Jake Ketzner leaves as Gov. Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff to “pursue opportunities outside state government.”

Oct. 1, 2018 — First date Ketzner is listed as a lobbyist for Workday.

Oct. 30, 2019 — Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer signs $21 million, five-year contract with Workday to provide human resources and financial cloud-computing services.

Feb. 11, 2020 — Iowa OCIO signs $28 million Workday contract for implementation of human resources systems by summer 2021 and financial systems by summer 2022.

July 2020 — Gov. Kim Reynolds transfers $21 million from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, to Workday implementation.

Oct. 16, 2020 — U.S. Treasury Department and State Auditor Rob Sand tell Reynolds CARES Act transfer is not allowed.

Dec. 14, 2020 — Reynolds announces she will return CARES Act money spent on Workday.

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