Control Board Plots IT Course for District of Columbia


Control Board Plots IT Course for District of Columbia

The board is devising a com-prehensive infotech manage-ment plan for review in March

By Ronald Roach, Contributing Writer

The upgrade of information technology systems is key to restoration of Washington D.C.'s financial health and satisfactory delivery of public services, according to a strategic plan prepared for Congress by the District of Columbia Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority.

The authority, better known as the D.C. financial control board, has been working with city officials for more than a year to deploy new information systems to improve city operations.

Created in 1995 at the behest of Congress, the control board is developing a comprehensive information technology management plan slated for public review by March 31. The control board plans to adopt a final information technology plan by June 30.

Control board officials acknowledge they have considerable work ahead in completing that plan.

"Many of the district's information systems are not up to date. At this point, there isn't an information technology management plan. There's no overall blueprint for moving the district to the next step," said Mark Goldstein, deputy executive director of the D.C. financial control board.

Much of the disarray in the district government has been attributed by the control board, district employees and others to the lack of adequate information systems and incompatibility of systems among departments.

"The current investment in and upkeep of district systems are not designed to create a coherent system," said Gibson, project director of D.C. Agenda, a two-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the district government.

The board has found that the district's financial management systems are among the worst in the city government. "For years, the district has not known the current status of expenditures against budgeted amounts and allowed millions of dollars of obligations to be incurred outside of the accounting system .... Also, feeder systems are not integrated with the central system," according to the plan.

The strategic plan also singles out inadequate personnel and procurement information systems. "It currently takes an average of 216 days to process and award a contract. Automation would greatly reduce this time frame," according to the board's plan.

While getting a handle on district finances is regarded as the control board's most critical priority, the five-member panel is allowing the district's Office of the Chief Financial Officer, under CFO Anthony Williams, to craft a needs assessment study and plan for securing a new financial management information system. Goldstein said the CFO's office will be seeking congressional funding this winter for the plan.

The control board has approved a needs assessment study that was issued by the CFO in early December 1996. Congress is expected to consider the control board recommendations from the CFO study by the end of January.

In a regionwide initiative, the district is participating in a $12 million project led by the National Capital Planning Commission to develop a regional, high-tech geographic information system. The GIS database, according to an NCPC official, will bring about
online systems that use digitized geographic information on the Washington area. The databases are useful for zoning, planning and public works projects.

Nyambi Nyambi, acting director of the planning and information technology division at the NCPC, said the regional planning group has been working closely with district officials in the Department of Public Works and the Department of Administrative Services to ensure that when the GIS databases become available this year, district employees and residents will have computer systems in place to access and use the information.

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