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Evaluation of major federal IT projects falls short, GAO finds

Posted: November 19, 2012 - 12:30 pm ET

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments and HHS are all remiss in developing their ongoing evaluations processes for certain major information technology projects, according to a new report by the General Accountability Office.

In its 61-page report (PDF), “Agencies Need to Strengthen Oversight of Billions of Dollars in Operations and Maintenance Investments,” the government watchdog agency said the Office of Management and Budget has guidelines for federal agencies that require them to do annual “operational analyses” on the performance of their IT investments in operations and maintenance.

The reviews are required “to ensure steady state investments continue to meet agency needs,” according to a GAO report summary.

HHS analyzed seven of its eight such investments in IT, but even in the analyses HHS performed, not all key factors in the OMB guidelines were addressed, the GAO said.

The VA and Defense departments performed none of the analyses called for in the OMB guidelines, but relied on alternative measures, which the GAO said may be “helpful” but still miss 11 of the 17 key factors in an analysis called for by OMB.

Overall, the GAO summary said, these three agencies, plus the Treasury and Homeland Security departments, had investments of more than $3 billion in IT projects during fiscal 2011 that did not undergo needed analysis. The GAO also faulted the OMB for not detailing in its guidance follow-up mechanisms that would help ensure the analyses by government agencies are performed. The GAO also criticized the OMB for not requiring transparency to make these results available to the public.

“Until agencies address these shortcomings, there is increased risk that these agencies will not know whether the multibillion dollar investments fully meet their intended objectives,” the GAO summary said.

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