DHS financial systems project concerns IG

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The Homeland Security Department should re-examine options for its financial systems consolidation project and correct outstanding software coding issues before fusing DHS components’ financial systems, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.

DHS plans to migrate its component agencies’ financial information technology systems into two platforms — one from Oracle and one from SAP. According to the IG's report, DHS officials said they chose those platforms because they are familiar with them.

However, the IG said that in making that decision, officials did not consider solutions other agencies are using or that are available in a shared-services environment, and they should do so before moving forward with TASC.

DHS officials said they had received a verbal waiver from the Office of Management and Budget, which endorsed DHS’ decision to consolidate the systems without further competition. However, the IG said policy requires that those waiver requests be published in the Federal Register.

The department plans to settle on one platform sometime after 2011 under its Transformation and Systems Consolidation (TASC) program, according to the IG's report, made public May 28.

Thus far, DHS' Resource Management Transformation Office (RMTO), which is working on the strategy, has focused on the Oracle platform, the department said.

After a draft report was issued earlier this year, a federal claims court ruled that DHS’ decision to settle on Oracle and SAP systems was an improper sole-source procurement. It ordered DHS to hold an open competition before moving forward on the project. According to the IG report, RMTO is re-evaluating its consolidation strategy as a result of that ruling.

The IG’s review of the project also found that DHS needs to improve performance by chronicling and analyzing scripts, or software code, that have been added to the Oracle-based financial management systems of the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard. The IG said those additions demonstrated that controls on the systems are not properly designed and financial data could be compromised.

The IG recommended that DHS:

    * Conduct a full evaluation of financial service providers available through government agencies to see if they can meet DHS' needs more efficiently.
    * Identify all scripts that the Coast Guard and TSA are using and determine their effects on the financial transactions of the agencies and DHS.
    * Correct the scripts before migrating to the new financial system.

DHS’ chief financial officer agreed with the three recommendations. However, the IG said DHS’ response to the first one was inadequate. DHS officials said they would look for external providers to implement the current approach. But the IG said DHS should review external options before going forward with that approach.

Nevertheless, DHS officials pledged to eliminate incorrect scripts before going live with the baseline system. They have identified 60 scripts that affect financial transactions at the Coast Guard and TSA. Twenty have been eliminated, 10 have been corrected and are undergoing acceptance testing, and 30 remain to be fixed, DHS said in response to the IG's recommendations.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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