GAO wants latest facts on IRS spending plans

A Government Accountability Office report reproves the Internal Revenue Service for including outdated information and omitting important details in its fiscal 2006 Business Systems Modernization (BSM) program expenditure plan. In a letter to GAO, the IRS responded to the criticism by adding a policy of notifying officials of plan changes.

The report, released Feb. 21, states that the IRS’ expenditure plan “is substantially based on information describing the status of BSM projects and program management initiatives as of April 2005.” The agency submitted the plan to Congress in October 2005.

“Without current and complete information, effective congressional oversight of BSM progress and accountability is impaired,” the report states.

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson wrote in a Feb. 2 letter responding to GAO’s draft report that the agency will keep near real-time updates on developing expenditure plans through greater visibility and by notifying officials of changes to them.

The report calls BSM a complex, high-risk effort to update the IRS’ information systems by replacing decades-old systems. Although some BSM projects met cost and schedule projections, others did not. The fiscal 2006 expenditure plan submitted to both House and Senate appropriations committees requests $199 billion for the project, according to GAO’s report.

Additionally, the IRS next month will release a new “Modernization Vision and Strategy” to address BSM challenges. The plan will replace the current BSM blueprint, which was developed in 1997.

That blueprint was getting stale, said Richard Spires, associate chief information officer for BSM at the IRS, in December 2005. “We really needed to refresh our strategy of how we are modernizing the IRS.” The emerging strategy emphasizes short- and long-term goals.

The BSM program will focus on delivering new functionality in key areas of IRS operations, and short-term decisions will be made with long-term goals in mind, Spires said.

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