GAO official calls for stronger IT spending oversight

A recent GAO report found data flaws in the government's IT Dashboard

The federal government must strengthen its oversight of IT spending, a Government Accountability Office official said today.

David Powner, GAO’s director of IT management, said during a House Appropriations Committee's Financial Services Subcommittee hearing that nearly 40 percent of the government’s 800 IT spending programs need managerial attention.

That 40 percent equals about 300 IT investments, totaling roughly $20 billion, that are at risk, he added.


Related story:

Federal IT Dashboard has inaccurate data, GAO finds


Powner’s comments reflected a March 15 GAO report that said the government’s IT Dashboard – a public website intended to improve transparency by tracking IT spending – has flawed data. The report concluded that performance data inaccuracies can be attributed to weaknesses in how agencies report data to the dashboard, such as erroneous data submissions and limitations in the Office of Management and Budget's calculations.

The report examined IT spending at five major federal organizations, including the Homeland Security and the Veterans Affairs departments, and found cost ratings were inaccurate for six of the programs it reviewed and schedule ratings were inaccurate for nine.

Powner credited OMB for its effort to enhance the federal government’s transparency through the dashboard, but he called for more focus on the $20 billion in IT investments that are at-risk.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who also testified, didn’t directly address the findings of the recent GAO report.  But he acknowledged Powner’s point, saying that there are still billions of dollars spent on IT projects that are behind schedule and over budget.

“It is not enough to shine a light and hope that performance improves,” Kundra said about the dashboard.

Kundra said he would not give any agency an “A” for current IT management. There are major structural barriers to effective execution and agencies have to predict two years in advance what their IT projects are going to look like because of the budget cycle, he explained.

Kundra said he hopes these problems, and problems with program management, are resolved through implementing the Obama administration’s 25-point IT reform plan.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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