DHS financial systems' security questioned

Plans by agencies of the Homeland Security Department to correct security weaknesses in their financial management systems don't  correct the fundamental causes  of the problems. Also, the plans are not consistently updated with correct information and lack detail, according to a recent audit commissioned by DHS’ inspector general.

The consulting firm KPMG found that the Information Technology Plans of Action and Milestones (POA&M) that several DHS agencies have used to fix vulnerabilities in financial management systems were insufficient. The audit found that milestones in those plans often lacked enough information to correct problems and the schedules the agencies set are not reasonable.

DHS’ inspector general hired the company to audit the POA&M plans that the Coast Guard, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had for improving the security of their financial management systems. The department’s fiscal 2006 Performance and Accountability Report cited the security of the department’s financial management systems as a material weakness.

The audit, which was conducted in November and December of 2007, made a series of recommendations for the components and DHS’ Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO). The report was  released July 1.

KPMG recommended that the agencies:



  • Formally identify the IT weaknesses in the system.

  • Determine the best action to fix those weaknesses.

  • Ensure that the fundamental causes of the IT problems are being addressed.

  • Implement internal processes to verify and validate progress.



Also, the report said OCIO and the OCFO should:



  • Increase their coordination in addressing IT financial management issues and plan corrective actions together when possible.

  • Determine whether  OCFO or OCIO is responsible for corrective action.

  • Identify funding and resources that will be needed.



In its response to the report, DHS concurred with the audit’s recommendations and said it was implementing them.

The company's auditors said they could not make a determination of what effect DHS’ efforts to consolidate its components financial management systems would have on agencies’ POA&M’s because that integration plan is still in its pre-implementation phase.

A department IG report released in May said DHS should re-examine options for its financial systems consolidation project and correct outstanding software coding issues before moving ahead with the financial system consolidation project.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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