DOH switching vendors after flawed food safety inspection system

DOH switching vendors after flawed food safety inspection system
Published: Jan. 21, 2015 at 12:03 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2015 at 1:48 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is switching vendors after spending thousands of dollars on a flawed electronic system for food safety inspections. The Department of Health paid Paragon Bermuda $169,939 for the system that was supposed to cover billing, inspections, and online public access. After three years of problems, however, inspectors have gone back to manually filling out paperwork as the state starts the process to solicit bids from other vendors.

"One of the big problems was when the inspectors used the system in the field, it freezes up, it was very slow, and that was very frustrating for our staff," explained Peter Oshiro, DOH environmental health program manager.

The state upgraded to an electronic system for restaurant inspections in September 2012, but the database is only available for internal use. Oshiro said it's unclear whether all that information can be transferred into a new system or if the state will have to start over with the next vendor that could be in place by the summer.

"We figure cut our losses now, get out of this bad system, and hopefully we've refined our procurement process to the point where we'll get another better vendor the next time," said Oshiro.

The setback is slowing down color-coded signs going up in Hawaii's restaurants. The state finished inspecting 2,150 of Oahu's 6,000 food establishments by December 31, 2014. 27% of the eateries received a yellow conditional pass for two or more critical violations.

"The staff did take a little longer than we thought as far as getting inspections out and it was also coupled with the fact that we changed the inspection protocol whereby all the high risk categories were done first," said Oshiro.

The state is cracking down on establishments that fail to follow the rules. Oshiro said a Pearl City restaurant now faces a fine of several thousand dollars for recently taking down its yellow placard. Health officials fined Iyo Udon $11,000 last September for removing its conditional pass sign.

The Department of Health still needs to fill six inspector positions.

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