VA mailed it in on FLITE contract, IG says

Inspector general concludes financial system modernization project foundered because key Veterans Affairs personnel didn't work closely enough with contractor

Managers at the Veterans Affairs Department didn't participate in key conference calls with a contractor — submitting written comments instead -- that resulted in missed opportunities to keep a pilot project for the department's Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprises (FLITE) financial management IT system modernization on track, according to a new report.

Many development problems could have been better dealt with if VA employees and the contractor “spent more time working side-by-side in a collaborative environment instead of in an environment that encouraged passing documents back and forth,” Belinda Finn, deputy inspector general for audits and evaluations at the VA 's Office of Inspector General, wrote in her report issued Sept. 7.

Finn recommended that the VA’s key team members “attend meetings, conferences, and work sessions in person” to avoid such problems in the future.

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Overall, Finn concluded that the VA did not adequately monitor contractor performance, foster collaboration, provide staffing or ensure that necessary software was available while overseeing a pilot project in the “FLITE” financial modernization program.

“We substantiated that FLITE program managers needed to improve their overall management of the Strategic Asset Management pilot project,” Finn wrote.

The audit investigated several allegations of inadequate management of contractor General Dynamics Information Technology in the development of the FLITE program. The $400 million FLITE program recently was canceled by the VA, concurrent with a White House-led overhaul of troubled financial system modernization programs.

According to the audit, FLITE program managers didn't adequately monitor the contractor’s performance, ensure that programmers were assigned to the project in a timely manner, develop written procedures for roles and responsibilities for program interface development, and foster a collaborative working environment.

For example, the audit cited inadequate management shown by the “significant delays” in getting contractor deliverables. As of April, the VA had accepted two of 12 deliverables. According to the original schedule, the department should have accepted eight of the 12 deliverables by January. One of the deliverables, the project management plan, was “more than six months late,” the report said.

Finn made three recommendations for the VA’s assistant secretary for information and technology in the report:

Establish mechanisms to ensure all VA staff members designated to formally review deliverables submit comments are regular intervals in the development process.

  • Develop and implement procedures to ensure needed collaboration occurs between VA employees and future contractors.
  • Direct key team members to attend meetings, conferences, and work sessions in person.

VA officials agreed with the findings and recommendations and have set up a schedule for implementing modifications, the report said.


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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