GAO claims OMB's plan falls short

The Office of Management and Budget assigned the task of overseeing agencies' finances and managerial efforts has fallen short in developing its own strategy to track and improve its managerial capabilities General Accounting Office officials told Congress this month.

OMB like other agencies is required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 to develop a strategic plan for how it will measure the effectiveness of its business practices including information technology. Because of OMB's oversight role how well it manages itself is expected to have ripple effects on how other agencies perform.

But the GPRA strategy OMB has developed is lacking especially regarding IT issues GAO reported.

"The plan could provide a more explicit discussion of OMB's strategies on such subjects as information technology high-risk issues overlap among federal missions and programs and strengthening program evaluation " wrote GAO budget issues director Paul L. Posner and J. Christopher Mihm GAO acting associate director for federal management and work-force issues. GAO submitted the report to the House Subcommittee on Government Management Information and Technology.

Critical Components

GPRA experts view IT as a critical component for complying with GPRA as a tool for delivering service to taxpayers and for collecting and assessing data to determine how well an agency is meeting its plan. Moreover resolution of IT problems such as the Year 2000 bug is key to getting agencies operating more efficiently and producing better results said Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) chairman of the subcommittee.

"They've got two years to [fix the Year 2000 problem] and a lot of [agencies] are dragging their feet " Horn said after the hearing.

Horn charged G. Edward DeSeve acting deputy director for management at OMB with taking a stronger lead on the Year 2000 problem. OMB under Sally Katzen administrator of OMB's Office for Information and Regulatory Affairs is taking a strong lead in working with agencies to fix the problem DeSeve said.

But Horn said Katzen already has her hands full. "Somebody in the executive branch has to be the coordinator to make sure this all happens " Horn said. "It needs somebody to be the daily nudge and nag."

Horn also said OMB's GPRA strategic plan should better address "high-risk" programs at agencies. GAO has flagged programs at several agencies as being high risk leaving the programs open to fraud waste and mismanagement.

Many of the high-risk areas are IT-based including systems that run the student financial aid program housing programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development tax systems at the Internal Revenue Service and financial systems at the Defense Department.

DeSeve said some IT shortcomings for GPRA strategic planning cannot be fixed quickly and will be remedied as agencies collect more data over time.

"What we don't have yet is cost-accounting data " said DeSeve who explained that agencies are just getting to the point where they have enough electronic performance and financial data to better account for costs and to do more effective capital planning. "Agencies are coming to that point. It's going to take several years."

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