Powner: A model of constructive oversight

David Powner isn’t a gotcha auditor. He believes in bringing an enlightened perspective to the agencies whose programs he scrutinizes. “I think our role is to build a relationship where we’re viewed as a value-added service to federal agencies,” said Powner, director of information technology management issues at the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. “You build credibility, and they look at you more as being helpful instead of in a ‘gotcha’ audit mode.” An example is GAO’s relationship with officials at the Internal Revenue Service, which is engaged in a complex business systems modernization program. “We have a very open relationship [with IRS officials], and they seek our advice maybe a bit more than other agencies,” Powner said. The IRS’ effort to replace its aging tax-processing systems appears to be on the right track after years of costly failures. Powner’s guidance has been integral to improving the program, said Richard Spires, IRS deputy commissioner of operations support. “Dave brings a valuable perspective to his role as auditor, providing realistic, solution-oriented guidance for improvement,” Spires said. “His recommendations have served as the foundation for maturing the IRS’ ability to meet the enormous challenge of modernizing the core systems that support tax administration for the nation.” Under Powner’s counsel, the IRS added the IT modernization program into its governance structure, enhancing the partnerships between IT and internal customers. Powner said he believes that proper governance is critical to keeping IT projects on track. “We try to stress that not only do we need to bolster program and project management rigor and expertise at agencies, but when you get key executives engaged in performing the right governance over a project, that makes a world of difference, too,” he said. Improving executive-level governance can ultimately help agencies deliver technology within budget and on schedule, Powner said. In that regard, he said he believes in earned value management, a performance management technique that measures a project’s progress against cost, schedule and technical baselines. “There are some areas in the government where we’ve looked at [agency IT programs] and pushed for more rigorous implementation of earned value, and it [has] really made a difference,” Powner said. As GAO’s director of IT management issues, Powner’s audit portfolio covers programs valued at billions of dollars. Ultimately, his job is to see that federal tax dollars are well spent and not wasted, he said. Powner carries out that job from GAO’s field office in Denver, where he lives. Powner, who spends about two weeks each month in Washington, said he doesn’t mind the frequent travel between Denver and the capital. It gives him plenty of time to review GAO’s voluminous reports and testimony. “You hop on a plane, and you’ve got three hours of uninterrupted time to look at reports,” he said. Powner is in his second stint at GAO’s Colorado office. After nine years with the agency in the 1990s during which he evaluated modernization programs at the Air Force, National Weather Service and Federal Aviation Administration, he took a job in the telecommunications industry in Denver. However, he decided in 2003 to return to GAO. “GAO is a tremendous place to work,” Powner said. “I look at the portfolio of stuff I get to work on and how we get to make a difference.” Powner said the government’s biggest challenge is to improve the quality of its workforce. “There are pockets of expertise at any agency where you have very good folks who really know the technology — how to manage complex programs, ho to oversee contractors and how to push contractors,” he said. “But then you see a lot of programs where you don’t have the expertise.” 
X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.