Federal IT Dashboard has inaccurate data, GAO finds

GAO examined IT investments at five agencies, including the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments

The Office of Management and Budget’s IT Dashboard — a website intended to improve transparency by tracking the status of about 800 federal IT spending programs — has data flaws, according to the Government Accountability Office.

A GAO report released today said that although OMB has taken several steps to increase the dashboard’s value as an oversight and management tool, performance data inaccuracies remain. The report concludes that those inaccuracies can be attributed to weaknesses in how agencies report data to the dashboard, such as erroneous data submissions and limitations in OMB’s calculations.

“The ratings of selected IT investments on the dashboard did not always accurately reflect current performance, which is counter to the Web site's purpose of reporting near-real-time performance,” the report states.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said, “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. 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.”

The dashboard includes assessments of actual performance against cost and schedule targets — referred to as ratings — for federal IT projects.

For its latest report, GAO analyzed OMB's oversight efforts and dashboard improvement plans, compared the performance of 10 major investments at five agencies with large IT budgets against the ratings on the dashboard, and interviewed OMB and other agency officials.

The report covers the Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Treasury and Transportation departments, and the Social Security Administration.

GAO found that cost ratings were inaccurate for six of the programs it reviewed, and schedule ratings were inaccurate for nine.

“For example, the dashboard rating for a Department of Homeland Security investment reported significant cost variances for three months in 2010; however, GAO’s analysis showed lesser variances from cost targets for the same months,” the report states.

GAO recommended that the selected agencies take steps to improve the accuracy and reliability of dashboard information. It also suggested that OMB improve how it rates investments relative to current performance and schedule variance.

Specifically, the report calls on the federal CIO to develop cost and schedule rating calculations that better reflect current investment performance and update the dashboard’s schedule calculation for in-progress activities to more accurately represent the variance of ongoing, overdue activities.

GAO first reviewed the IT Dashboard in July 2010.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 16, 2011

OMB needs to provide clear direction on what data is required to be reported on the OMB IT Dashboard and whether or not the government is going to use Earned Value Management reporting. As indicated in the OMB response to the audit report there was not a clear understanding between OMB and GAO as to the proper use of EVM. Also, the formula used to calculate the variances on the OMB IT Dashboard are no longer published in the FAQ's, are not consistently applied across investment milestones and frequently change without notification. How can agencies comply in an environment like this?

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