NASA lacks IT for procurement oversight

The General Accounting Office will continue to classify NASA's overall contract management efforts as "high risk" until the agency launches its new integrated financial management system, which is behind schedule, GAO officials said in a report released last month.

The report notes that NASA's contract management function encompasses several processes, including financial management and oversight. But NASA lacks adequate systems and processes to oversee procurement activities and produce accurate management data, according to the report, which was released as part of a GAO series on "Major Management Challenges and Program Risks" at federal agencies.

In a 1997 internal NASA report, officials said the agency's financial management environment was made up of decentralized, nonintegrated systems with polices and procedures unique to its field centers. GAO concluded that data formats were not standardized, automated systems were not interfaced, and online financial information was not readily available to program managers.

NASA's new integrated financial management system is intended to solve these problems, but the system has been delayed. In May, NASA signed a contract modification with its contractor, KPMG Peat Marwick, delaying the initial implementation of the financial system at two space centers until June 1999. The modification also postponed agencywide installation from July 1999 to June 2000.

KPMG has had difficulties upgrading its software to support new technologies and meet all federal requirements, according to the GAO report. These difficulties have been especially prevalent in two systems directly related to contract management: the core financial and procurement systems.

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