Committee finds manual processes in automated systems

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Sept. 6 that federal agencies frequently use manual processes to transfer information between their IT management systems.

“Our analysis shows these systems are not serving taxpayers well,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the house oversight and government reform committee.

The committee asked 26 agencies in March for information on their IT management systems. It wanted to know about the interaction among the management systems that agencies use to track financial and accounting data and information on grants and contracts.

An analysis of the responses by the committee staff found many agencies' systems often don’t interact directly.

“Agencies employ a tangled web of disparate manual processes to generate the data,” noted the committee.

Of the responses, 21 of 26 agencies said there is the widespread use of manual processes in their reporting systems. For example, the Interior Department uses manual processes in almost every step of its financial reporting. And the Veterans Affairs Department established the Data Quality Service to help manually transfer information between systems, the committee said.

Manual processes are inherently problematic, because they are slow, expensive, and conducive to human error, the committee said. However, agencies did not report significant strides in getting rid of manual processing, based on their responses to the committee inquiry.

The committee also raised concerns about a lack of financial information that goes online, particularly the data tracked by the management IT systems.

The committee said it did not receive sufficient answers from at least 10 of the 26 agencies to questions on the public availability of management IT data. Even so, some agencies went into detail about their IT management systems.

Some agencies said they do not make any financial information public. For example, the Transportation Department does not publicly report any of its grants, loans, or contracts, the committee found.

Nevertheless, a few agencies make management IT data publicly available on their own websites.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Tue, Sep 20, 2011

Obviously this committee thinks there is a strain of killer apps out there in the public domain that are naturally occurring fully automated systems that require no human intervention and feature high data quality. This notion completely ignores the question of how such systems get fed the data they need, if not by human action. They must think these systems just spring forth from the soil and cost next to nothing.

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