The cost to Kansas taxpayers of consolidating information technology services in the executive branch of state government could increase by millions of dollars depending on the level of IT staff retained and the replacement of outdated infrastructure, auditors said Monday.

The Kansas Legislature's auditing division estimated that continuing with existing consolidation plans for state Cabinet agencies could increase annual costs $2.6 million to $38 million, depending on how many of 230 targeted IT personnel were eliminated because of efficiencies and the unavoidable expense of addressing the "poor condition" of Kansas' IT infrastructure.

"Their plan will likely increase state costs instead of achieving savings," auditor Andy Brienzo told a joint House and Senate committee.

While no official tracking of Cabinet agency IT expenditures exists, Brienzo said, auditors estimated the state devoted about $150 million each year to IT services and labor. The annual cost could rise to $153 million to $188 million depending primarily on how many jobs were outsourced to private vendors, he said.

The consolidation initiative controlled by the state's Office of Information Technology Services, or OITS, initiated in 2011 under Gov. Sam Brownback, doesn't include non-Cabinet agencies, such as the secretary of state's office, the Kansas Corporation Commission or Kansas State University.

Nothing in the audit shared with legislators challenged the notion that much of the executive branch's technology was profoundly outdated. In 2015, a former consultant to the state, Excipio, asserted 70 percent of the state's IT infrastructure "was beyond the end of its useful life" or without manufacturer support.

Lee Allen, OITS' chief information technology officer, said the cost estimate derived by auditors relied on "significantly outdated" data anchored to the potential of eliminating 230 of 791 state IT positions in response to modernization.

"The suggestion of reducing up to 232 state employees to maintain the smallest increase in cost is irresponsible and inaccurate," said Allen, who was appointed last year by Gov. Jeff Colyer.

In fact, he said, Kansas' executive branch IT staffing had eroded by 222 from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2019. But that downsizing occurred without fully consolidating technology services in Cabinet agencies. He said the result was a "decline in service levels, lower confidence in executive branch IT and insufficient resources to address agency business needs."

The Office of Information Technology Services has outsourced to third-party vendors the procurement of desktop computers, email services and mainframe services. OITS is in the process of outsourcing data center services and has plans to bid out network services. OITS intends to remain in control of security operations and to operate a service desk.

Allen said previous consolidation service projects weren't funded appropriately and hadn't met expectations of participating agencies.