GAO details challenges to e-government project funding

Errors by administration officials, congressional pushback and an overall shortage of funds hamstrung 25 Office of Management and Budget-sponsored e-government initiatives in fiscal 2003 and 2004, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

In the report issued yesterday, auditors interviewed officials leading 10 QuickSilver projects and found that, for a variety of reasons, six had funding shortfalls in in 2003 and nine in 2004. And these shortfalls forced project managers to delay the implementation of key elements of the initiatives, GAO said.

The report, requested by Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) gives a first-time glimpse into some of the main reasons why several of these high-profile projects have taken longer than initially planned.

GAO found only GovBenefits and received funding from all their agency partners in 2003, and only Recreation One-Stop obtained full funding in 2003 and 2004.

The E-rulemaking project, auditors said, suffered more from money problems than any of the other projects reviewed. The project, which consolidates rulemaking systems around the government, received money in 2004 from only nine of 35 agencies. In 21 of those cases, OMB forgot to reflect the funding in the partner agencies’ budget guidance.

GAO said the factors in the funding shortfalls included:

  • Some agencies substituted in-kind resources

  • OMB officials failed to reflect funding expectations in agencies budget passback guidance

  • Lawmakers refused to grant permission to reapportion program funds for these projects

  • Some agencies were consolidated into the Homeland Security Department.

Agencies said the delays in funding were caused by the time it took to develop and sign interagency agreements and by Congress’ passing appropriations bills late.

In 2005, OMB officials said agencies are doing a better job of meeting their financial responsibilities. Tim Young, OMB’s associate administrator for e-government and IT, has said that 90 percent of all agency funding agreements for the projects were signed in April [see GCN story].

GAO recommended, and OMB agreed, that the administration should “ensure it correctly reflects the funding plans of each initiative in its budget guidance to partner agencies.”

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