Auditors: Coast Guard, FEMA weak on controls

The Coast Guard made more progress than the Federal Emergency Management Agency in securing information technology systems in fiscal 2008, according to two new audits released by Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The DHS agencies have material weakness in IT controls overall, although they are experiencing fewer deficiencies than in the previous year, according to audits conducted by KPMG and released by Skinner April 27.

Auditors found 22 weaknesses in IT controls at the Coast Guard in fiscal 2008 — 21 repeat findings and one new finding. However, the service has made progress since fiscal 2007, when auditors found 42 IT-related control deficiencies, of which 40 were repeat problems.

In the new audit, the company found problems with application software development and change controls, access controls, service continuity and entitywide security planning and management.

“These IT control weaknesses limited Coast Guard’s ability to ensure that critical financial and operational data were maintained in such a manner to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability," the auditors wrote. "In addition, these weaknesses negatively impacted the internal controls over Coast Guard financial reporting and its operation, and we consider them to collectively represent a material weakness for Coast Guard under standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.”

In another report, KPMG found 26 weaknesses in FEMA’s internal controls — 15 repeat findings from previous years and 11 new findings. The problems constitute a material weakness for the agency under national accounting standards, the auditors said.

The most significant concern is FEMA's poor controls over access to programs and data and program changes. Those shortcomings limit FEMA’s ability to ensure that financial and operational data is accurate and secure, the report states.

Auditors also reported that in fiscal 2007, FEMA had 31 weaknesses in IT security, including 13 new findings.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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