Group disbands intergovernmental panel

The Intergovernmental Enterprise Panel, a group established three years ago to promote sharing of information technology solutions among federal, state and local agencies, was disbanded last week by its parent organization, the Government Information Technology Services Board.

G. Martin Wagner, a GITSB member and associate administrator for governmentwide policy with the General Services Administration, said the IEP, as organized, had outlived its usefulness. There are "other solutions" for creating cooperation among the three levels of government, he said. "We're doing a lot of intergovernmental management," Wagner said at the group's final meeting Jan. 21. "More than when IEP was formed.''

But participants in the meeting, including some who were not members of the group, said they want to continue their work. "There needs to be a forum for intergovernmental communication,'' said Steve Jennings, executive director of the Information Technology Center for Harris County, Texas.

The fate of the IEP has been in doubt since last fall, when its federal co-chairwoman, Nada Harris, retired from government. Participation by state and local officials had dwindled amid complaints that meetings, which were always held in Washington, D.C., had too strong a federal focus. In addition, some members complained that the group had spent too much time on studies instead of funding projects to demonstrate ways IT could help federal, state and local agencies collaborate to deliver services.

In November, GITSB asked the IEP to reinvent itself and to propose ways it could work more closely with the board on specific projects. In its proposal to the board this month, the IEP suggested it become a conduit for ideas and a forum for soliciting participation by state and local agencies in GITS programs.

But Wagner said the board decided it had other ways to work with state and local governments, such as collaborating on Year 2000 solutions, law enforcement technology and the electronic distribution of government benefits.

Wagner said studies the IEP sponsored on barriers to cooperation and the personal relationships it built helped to further intergovernmental IT programs. Now, he said, the board believed it would be "better to work...on a project-specific basis."

Costis Toregas, president of Public Technology Inc. and co-chairman of the IEP for local government, countered that federal, state and local agencies still need to discuss their problems and ideas before they do projects.

The IEP was on the verge of approving some pilot IT projects, and selecting candidates was on last week's agenda. But now that it has been dissolved, the group can no longer spend the $300,000 it had remaining in its budget.

Wagner said he was not sure what would happen to the money, although it could be reallocated to "related projects.'' He said IEP members could recommend to GITSB that projects chosen by the IEP be funded.

Participants at the meeting said they wanted to rebuild the group and discussed finding financial support elsewhere.

Robert Greeves, a Vienna, Va.-based consultant on intergovernmental IT issues, said GITSB may not be the best group to be aligned with because it is "an IT-oriented organization" and its agenda is driven by the White House. The board is a product of Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

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