Federal IT tracking Web site often inaccurate, report finds

Monday, July 26, 2010; 10

A new Web site the Office of Management and Budget has established to track federal information technology investments does not always provide accurate data, the Government Accountability Office has found.

In a new report, the GAO is calling on OMB to offer better guidance to federal agencies so they can standardize their reporting.

Just over a year ago, OMB rolled out the public Web site -- called the IT Dashboard -- which details federal agencies' major IT programs, in particular tracking whether the programs are meeting their cost and schedule targets. Programs that fail to meet key milestones get yellow or red ratings, while on-track programs get green ratings.

Of the projects the GAO studied, five of eight had inaccurate cost ratings and two of eight had inaccurate schedule information. As a result, some of the programs should have received lower performance ratings.

The report criticizes both OMB and federal agencies -- OMB for not providing clear enough guidance and some agencies for not following the procedures in place.

"The data quality issue is something they're going to have to continually work on," said David A. Powner, director of information technology management issues at the GAO.

For instance, at three of the five agencies the GAO examined, officials said they're not using the Dashboard because they already have systems in place.

But Powner expressed confidence that agencies will eventually begin relying on the Dashboard more, particularly as OMB makes clear it is using the program as an oversight tool.

He praised the latest iteration of the program, a new version of which was released just before the GAO issued its report.

"This is by far the most comprehensive picture that the public or Congress has been provided," Powner said. "I think the real next step is to ensure that the data is more accurate -- that's the near-term step -- and then ... [to] move more projects from red and yellow to green."

The site can be found at www.it.usaspending.gov.


The Office of Management and Budget has given the National Institutes of Health the go-ahead to oversee a government-wide information technology acquisition contract known as CIOSP3.

The contracting vehicle -- a follow-on to an existing program -- will compete with General Services Administration IT contracting offerings. NIH also received approval to run a small-business version.

OMB said it approved NIH's request to manage its own program because it will meet the specific needs of agencies with health-related responsibilities.

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