GAO: Problems with OMB oversight of IT

Agencies are failing to categorize certain projects as high-risk when they should, GAO says, and OMB is not getting the whole picture.

David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office, is critical of the way the Office of Management and Budget collects information about IT projects, Government Computer News reports.

“The watch lists are very valuable because they identify projects that are poorly performing,” Powner said. But “we have some concerns about OMB’s criteria not being consistently applied.” Powner recently drafted a report on the Management Watch List and urged OMB to tighten its oversight policies.

For both of watch lists - the Management Watch List and high-risk quarterly reports - OMB relies on agencies to report on the status of their IT projects against critera and report the data. OMB dismissed the criticism, saying its oversight is merely supplemental to agencies' own management.

But GAO found agencies inconsistently apply the critera and may be failing to include some high-risk project. Case in point: How does the Defense Dept. have only six high-risk projects, when VA - with a budget 1/17th the size of DoD's has 33? (Well, we already know VA's IT management is not brilliant, so ...)

GAO has specific problems with Defense’s Business System Modernization effort and the FAA's modernization programs. Transportation reports zero at-risk projects.

Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator of e-government and IT, said: “We do not believe flexibility in the process equals inconsistency in the application of the criteria. The report incorrectly implies agencies will not be able to oversee their own projects without additional guidance on this narrowly focused process, when, in fact, the report itself suggests agencies are using this policy as an opportunity to improve their internal oversight.”