GAO Report finds flaws in OMB e-gov initiatives

The Office of Management and Budget did not collect complete business case information before selecting its 24 e-government initiatives, according to a General Accounting Office study conducted released Dec. 19 by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.

For example, despite the importance that OMB attached to collaboration and customer focus in its e-government strategy, fewer than half of the initiatives' initial business cases addressed these topics, the study found. The initiatives include electronic travel and payroll systems, a governmentwide portal for benefits eligibility information and a portal for business compliance information.

"It troubles me that OMB decided upon its signature e-government initiatives without considering the very factors that it has identified as essential to successful e-government," Lieberman said. "Especially now that the E-Government Act has passed, I hope that OMB will evaluate its programs more carefully, and consult closely with Congress, to ensure that its initiatives realize e-government's true potential."

Lieberman had asked GAO to review information related to the selection and implementation of each e-government initiative. GAO staff reviewed best practices for preparing information technology business cases developed by leading government, academic and private sector organizations, and compared the initial business cases used in the selection of the 24 initiatives with these best practices. GAO staff also compared the information in the May 2002 work plans and funding plans with identified best practices from GAO and OMB guidance on IT project management and oversight.

The GAO analysis found that OMB did not have all the information needed to fully monitor the progress and development of the initiatives. For example, only nine of the initiatives identified a strategy for obtaining needed funds. Also, the accuracy of the estimated costs in the funding plans may be questionable, the report said. GAO found that since May 2002, estimated costs for 12 of the initiatives have changed significantly-by more than 30 percent. Without accurate cost, schedule, and performance information, OMB cannot ensure that its e-government initiatives are on schedule and achieving their goals of providing value to customers and improving government efficiency, the GAO said.

The GAO recommended in its report that OMB Director Mitchell Daniels ensure that agency managing partners for all 24 e-government initiatives focus on customers by soliciting input from the public and conducting user needs assessments, work with partner agencies to develop and document effective collaboration strategies and provide OMB with adequate information to monitor the cost, schedule, and performance of the 24 e-government initiatives.

The E-Government Task Force began the Quicksilver process in August 2001, selecting 34 projects from 350 proposals. These projects were selected without business plans. Abbreviated business plans were then developed for the 34 projects. The President's Management Council approved 24 initiatives by October, less than two months after the Quicksilver process began.

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