DHS cannot keep track of all its acquisitions, IG testifies
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Mar 01, 2012
The Homeland Security Department cannot keep track of all its procurements because of inconsistent and decentralized reporting by its 22 component agencies, according to its acting inspector general.
“The department does not always know what is in its acquisition portfolio because of the conflicting written and verbal guidance provided to the components,” Charles Edwards, acting inspector general, testified at a House subcommittee hearing on March 1.
The department has limited visibility into its procurements because it has not made sure that all components are reporting into the Next-generation Periodic Reporting System [nPRS], Edwards told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.
Since 2008, the department has classified acquisitions under three levels: Level 1 acquisitions are $1 billion or more; Level 2 acquisitions are $300 million to $1 billion; and Level 3 acquisitions are less than $300 million. The department spent $13 billion on acquisitions in fiscal 2010.
While headquarters has issued guidance to the component agencies for entering and updating information in the nPRS for all three levels, the guidance has been inconsistent, Edwards said.
The “conflicting verbal and written guidance confused component personnel, who were not sure whether to report all acquisition programs or only level 1 and 2 programs,” Edwards said.
To identify the number of acquisition programs in the department, the inspector general said his office requested a list of all programs from nPRS, but the department could provide only level 1 and 2 acquisition programs.
Despite further efforts to get a full list, as of April 2011, the nPRS appeared to include only about half of the Level 3 programs that were listed in other systems, Edwards said.
The inspector general said DHS’ Chief Procurement Office agreed to require reporting to nPRS of all levels of acquisitions as of April 2011.
Rafael Borras, DHS under secretary for management, who also testified, said he has issued a directive requiring components to submit monthly reports.
“On February 13, 2012, I issued a memorandum once again calling on all Components and programs to ensure that on a monthly basis all acquisition program information reported in the Department existing data systems is complete, accurate, and valid,” Borras said in his testimony at the hearing.
However, Edwards said in his testimony that his office is continuing to monitor the reporting, adding that despite Borras’ recent order, DHS’ efforts have not been completely responsive to the recommendations.
“While we are encouraged by the Department’s actions, this effort does not meet the full intent of our recommendation,” Edwards said.
Borras said he has taken additional measures, including making the Program Accountability and Risk Management office a direct report to himself, managing day-to-day oversight of acquisition. He also issued a Program Management & Execution Playbook to the acquisition workforce.
The department also has a Decision Support Tool and dashboard for tracking major acquisition programs and their cost, funding and schedules, Borras added.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.