Sens. Carper, Lieberman, Collins Urge DHS, Other Agencies to Strengthen Reporting on IT Contracts, Costs
WASHINGTON – Today, Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine), urged the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to heed the recommendations of a new report that found flaws in the federal government’s “IT Dashboard,” an online tool designed to make spending on federal information technology more accessible and transparent.
The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that while the Dashboard provides OMB with an up-to-date status of the cost and performance of various IT investments, it also contains data inaccuracies either because agencies provide erroneous information to OMB or because of the way OMB analyzes the data.
“When it comes to analyzing the millions of taxpayer dollars the federal government is spending on information technology, the ‘IT Dashboard’ is a window where there once was a door,” said Sen. Carper. “President Obama and his Administration quickly recognized that for far too long Congress and the American people were left in the dark when it came to understanding how scarce taxpayer dollars were being spent on information technology projects. In many cases these projects didn’t deliver on time – if at all – and good money was often thrown after bad with the American taxpayer paying the tab. Things are better, but still not perfect. That’s why I urge the Administration to quickly make good on their promise to improve the ‘IT Dashboard’ and fix the problems found by the Government Accountability Office in their report. The ‘IT Dashboard‘ helps those of us in Congress clearly see which projects are experiencing hiccups so we can deal with them before they spiral out of control. And for those projects that may be beyond saving, it gives us the information we need to determine whether or not to pull the plug. Next month Senator Collins and I plan to introduce legislation designed to curb some of the waste we unfortunately see all too often with federal information technology projects.”
“Given the $80 billion the federal government spends annually on IT investments, and the critical role those investments play in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal services, we need an accurate analysis of which investments are working and which are not,” said Sen. Lieberman. “Agencies must do a better job of supplying OMB with correct data and OMB needs to improve its calculations and rating systems. If the IT Dashboard works the way it was intended, the federal government could see billions of dollars in savings and a significant reduction in waste.”
“We have invested tens of billions of dollars in the federal government’s IT infrastructure, and, given the digital age that we live in, such investments will only increase in the future,” said Sen. Collins. “But the Dashboard can only be as good the quality of the data supplied. Government agencies must be vigilant in requiring that IT projects are properly planned and that clear requirements are established at the beginning of the program. Aggressive oversight of the nearly $80 billion in taxpayer money that the federal government spends on IT investments annually is critical to helping ensure the prevention of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. We have already seen hundreds of millions of dollars wasted by the federal government due to poorly planned and poorly managed IT projects. I urge OMB to quickly implement GAO’s recommendations.”
In 2008, OMB released a report detailing why nearly one-third of every federal IT investment was poorly planned or over budget. In June 2009, the Administration created an “IT Dashboard” – a public website which quickly and easily illustrates IT investments that are on-track, having trouble, or calling out for cancelation. The Dashboard presents cost and schedule information, as well as an evaluation from the agency Chief Information Officer on major IT investments in 27 federal agencies.
The GAO report attributes inaccuracies to weaknesses in how agencies report data to the Dashboard, such as providing erroneous data submissions, as well as limitations in how OMB calculates ratings. GAO reported that until the selected agencies and OMB resolve these issues, ratings will continue to often be inaccurate and may not reflect current program performance.