Labor, HHS approps bill aims at e-gov initiatives

It is the Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments’ turn to come under the restraint of the House Appropriations Committee and its distrust of e-government.

In the Labor, HHS, Education and related agencies fiscal 2007 appropriations bill the committee passed yesterday, lawmakers repeated restrictive provisions surrounding e-government initiatives that they tried to push through in the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development and the Judiciary bill last year.

The Office of Management and Budget removed some of the language when the bill went to conference with the Senate last year. The administration and agencies still had to receive approval from the House and Senate Appropriations committees to transfer funds for 19 of 25 initiatives.

This is the latest attempt by lawmakers to derail OMB’s efforts to move e-government and the Lines of Business Consolidation initiatives into the next phases.

Similar to last year, the subcommittee wants the agencies to submit a reprogramming request in their operating plans. This year, however, lawmakers are putting more pressure on the career officials, asking them to submit certification that:
  • Attests to the accuracy of previous estimated savings the department assumes to be associated with the e-government initiative
  • The benefits to the program or office that would be derived from the proposed transfer exceed the benefits to the program or office from the use of funds for the purposes for which funds where originally appropriated.

“The committee has become increasingly concerned over the failure of this initiative to produce meaningful results, the huge reported costs of implementation and the resulting delay or loss of important information technology investments that were requested and approved by the Congress,” the committee said in the report.

“The committee is also concerned about the large number of complaints it has received from career program mangers who have been forced to transfer funds, shut down innovative and creative web sites and delay the development of critical technology because they have had to conform to inferior agencywide Web sites or transfer funds to departmental CIOs for subsequent transfer to other depts or agencies with lead responsibilities for specific e-government initiatives,” the report continued.

The committee added that the project’s savings have yet “to be verified,” while it has impeded “the development of critical technology” and the “continuation of valuable, innovative or creative Web sites.”

Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management, criticized the subcommittee’s actions.

“It’s irresponsible, dysfunctional, disappointing, unprofessional and illegal,” Johnson said after a luncheon sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management in Washington. “It is illegal for them to require exactly how an organization is to manage itself, who has to approve what and to designate a person by their employment status—career versus political.”

The administration is expected to issue a Statement of Administration Policy regarding the appropriations bill later this week.

GCN staff writer Rob Thormeyer contributed to this story.

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