GAO: Feds meet e-gov strictures

The federal government is fulfilling most, but not all of the statutory requirements in the first two titles of the E-government Act of 2002, the Government Accountability Office states.

In a report released Dec. 23, GAO auditors found that the Office of Management and Budget, the General Services Administration and other federal agencies are complying with 14 of the 18 major obligations created by Title I and Title II of the Act.

The e-Government Act contains five sections, called titles. GAO auditors only examined the first two, which govern OMB's internal structure and federal management and promotion of e-government services.

Examples of the government's compliance include the creation of the office of e-government and information technology by OMB officials in 2003 and Web sites made by other government agencies for all 198 federal courts, 10 months before their April 2005 deadline.

The four unfulfilled duties are:

* completing a study on information technology's potential to enhance crisis preparedness and emergency response;

* establishing a program to encourage private sector innovation in e-government; * developing a repository and a Web site cataloging the research and development projects funded by the federal government;

* not contracting with the National Academy of Sciences so that agency could study varying levels of Internet access within the federal government.

Auditors note that in the first three unfulfilled duties, government officials did undertake some actions, but those actions did not satisfy the e-Government Act.

In the case of the emergency preparedness and response study, Homeland Security Department officials told the GAO that a Mitre study examining a particular Web tool for disseminating information about communication interoperability solutions satisfied the Act. In the agency comment section, GAO auditors state that OMB officials agree that the study did not, in fact, fulfill the obligation; a new study will be initiated, the auditors add.

Regarding the language requiring a program to foster private sector innovation in e-government, OMB officials said the then-recently released request for information (RFI) for the lines of business initiatives accomplished the desired result. GAO auditors state that although the RFI is innovative, it falls short of a program promoting contractor innovation on an ongoing basis.

With the repository and Web site for cataloging research and development projects, OMB officials have stated that an existing National Science Foundation database is closely aligned with the Act's requirements. But OMB has not yet determined whether the NSF database can serve as the required Act repository, auditors say.

In the case of the National Academy of Sciences study on Internet disparities within the federal government, GSA officials responded that they are requesting money to fund such a study in fiscal 2006, and are compiling an interim report.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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