The Veterans Affairs Department, more than two years into a reorganization of its information technology programs under a centralized authority, is still having a tough time managing its multibillion-dollar portfolio of capital investments, according to a report by the VA inspector generals office.
VA has hard time managing projects, money: report
The report noted that of the 40 IT capital investment projects that were submitted for the 2009 budget year to the federal Office of Management and Budget, 37 were on the high-risk IT project list of the OBM, which has oversight responsibilities for government IT projects. The listings are an indicator that the projects were both poorly planned and poorly performing, the VA inspector generals report said.
The inspector general also pointed out that the VAs problems managing IT projects are not new.
It cited as examples that the $11 billion HealtheVet clinical IT system, under development by several outside contractors since 2001 as a replacement for the VAs VistA system, has slipped from a 2012 completion date to 2018. It also pointed to the 2004 failure and scrapping of the $249 million hospital financial and procurement management software system, CoreFLS, developed under contract by the consulting firm BearingPoint. The CoreFLS fiasco led to a congressional investigation and the move by the VA to reorganize under the control of a chief information officer.
But the inspector general report said the VA failed to adequately plan the transition to its system of centralized IT control. Subsequently, the VA failed to meet a key September 2008 deadline for submitting IT budget documents to the OMBit was three months lateand had not taken the corrective actions needed to ensure VA will not miss OMBs annual reporting deadline again in the future.
The report calls into question the VAs ability to manage $6.4 billion in IT investments budgeted for 2009 and 2010. Without corrective measures, the VA runs the risk of not meeting its cost, schedule and performance goals impacting VAs ability to timely and adequately provide veteran healthcare services and benefits, the report said.
The acting assistant secretary for information and technology concurred with the inspector generals findings and recommendations and provided plans to implement corrective actions, the report said.
The centralization of control over IT at the VA has been controversial since its onset to many of the programmers and clinicians who helped build the VistA system and fought off previous attempts at vesting control in Washington, an effort they see as antithetical to the organizations software development culture, which is similar in many respects to open source development. Joseph Conn / HITS staff writer
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