GAO: Federal CIO responsibilities too varied

Federal CIOs are limited in their capacity to properly deal with IT management in accordance with the law because of the many different responsibilities and roles they take on, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO performance audit looked at the roles and duties of 30 federal CIOs and concluded opportunities exist to enhance the role in federal IT management. Although laws dictate that agency CIOs be responsible for 13 areas of IT and information management, few focus on areas such as records management and privacy requirements, the report found.


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CIOs who reported they were not in charge of their agencies’ information management functions said they provided input or other assistance to the organizational units within their agencies. Those CIOs held varying roles, with duties that span a wide range. A CIO, for example, could be responsible for  making recommendations on records management technologies and policies, while another is told to collaborate with the agency’s public affairs office.

The least common areas of responsibility among CIOs were statistical policy and coordination and information disclosure. The report revealed that 21 CIOs said statistical policy and coordination was handled by other offices within their agencies. Eighteen CIOs reported that another office was in charge of information disclosure.

Many CIOs also take on other duties outside of their primary role, raising the question whether split responsibilities allow a CIO to deal effectively with an agency’s IT challenges, the report stated. However, some of the CIOs reported that having multiple roles actually helped them in their work. For example, one CIO who also held the position of deputy chief of staff said serving in a dual capacity showed staff a link between agency policy and operational implementation.

However, “holding other positions is contrary to the federal law requiring that IT and information management be the CIO’s primary function and distracts from the responsibility to ensure that agencies carry out their IT and information management activities in an efficient, effective and economical manner,” the report stated.

GAO has recommended that the Office of Management and Budget issue guidance to create measures of accountability to ensure CIOs’ responsibilities are implemented. GAO also recommended agencies to establish metrics that require them to demonstrate the extent to which their CIOs are exercising the authorities and responsibilities provided by law and OMB’s guidance. OMB should also require agencies to document lessons learned and best practices for managing IT, the report said.

 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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