GAO: INS Needs Stronger IT Investment Management

GAO: INS Needs Stronger IT Investment Management

The Immigration and Naturalization Service needs to better manage its investment in information technology to maximize its return on hundreds of millions of dollars in purchases, operations and maintenance of new and existing information systems, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office.

After a five month study, the congressional watchdog agency found management problems, such as the INS not knowing if its IT projects are meeting cost, schedule or performance expectations.

INS also has no process to compare proposed and ongoing projects to determine priorities and decide which projects should be funded based on relative costs, benefits, schedules and risks, the GAO said in its report, "Information Technology: INS Needs to Strengthen Its Investment Management Capability."

"We found that INS has established some important capabilities for managing [information technology] investments, but it has considerable work ahead to fully implement mature and effective processes," said the report's authors Randolph Hite and David McClure.

The report also found that the Justice Department has not provided sufficient guidance to any of its agencies, including INS, on the need to institutionalize effective investment management or how to accomplish it. Justice also has not provided oversight of its bureaus' efforts to develop management controls.

In fiscal year 2000, INS estimated it would spend about $327 million on IT systems and activities. In fiscal 2001, INS plans to spend about $226 million on IT operations and maintenance.

The GAO credited INS with defining good procedures for developing IT projects, though it did not consistently follow them. The auditors found INS continues to lack an enterprise architecture, an agencywide blueprint, to guide development of new information systems and the evolution of existing ones.

The study did not come at the request of Congress but was initiated by the GAO to evaluate its Information Technology Investment Management methodology in a formal assessment, McClure said.

The ITIM framework was developed by GAO to identify critical processes for successful IT investment. It organizes the processes into a framework of increasingly mature stages. McClure said GAO might perform an ITIM assessment of other agencies, depending upon resource availability.

The report was issued Dec. 29 to Attorney General Janet Reno, with copies sent to several members of Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and INS. The report was publicly released this week.

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