Justice audit reveals IT planning shortcomings

According to the final report in a series of three by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, Justice officials produced almost no performance evaluations for information technology projects.

The OIG received only seven post-implementation reviews from 38 projects, and four of them did not have information on lessons learned. The office wanted to use the reviews to identify problems with Justice projects.

The multitude of federal regulations for preparing studies of, planning for and evaluating IT projects also caused problems, the report notes. Regulations originate from different sources, such as the Clinger-Cohen Act, and they can prove cumbersome in the IT development process.

Documents submitted to the IG demonstrated compliance with requirements for areas such as business case studies and IT security. But gaps existed between the plans for IT projects and the end results.

Justice noted that problems resulted in cost increases and delays in deploying the FBI’s case management system and caused the termination of the FBI’s Laboratory Information Management System. They also led to delays in launching an interoperable fingerprint identification system for Justice, the Homeland Security and State departments, and state and local law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the Terrorist Screening Center database suffered from data integrity problems.

To remedy those problems, the OIG recommends that Justice:
  • Evaluate why project teams do not prepare certain plans and evaluations, reassess the utility of those documents, and consider revising the standards for producing IT studies, plans and evaluations for individual projects.
  • Consider revising the guidelines for tailoring work patterns for specific types of projects.
  • Ensure that post-implementation and post-termination evaluations are conducted that focus on lessons learned for project planning and management.
  • Ensure that employees receive training in skills needed to adequately direct and oversee contractor efforts.
  • Perform targeted reviews to improve the use of business process re-engineering and requirements analysis early in the development process.
Chandler is an intern with the 1105 Government Information Group.

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