Did IRS make progress? It's hard to tell, IG says

Actions the IRS took to shore up its Business Systems Modernization fell short because the tax agency did not create metrics to measure improvements, according to a new inspector general report.

The IRS also stopped many of its modernization efforts under the BSM Challenges Plan before it had completed significant activities, noted the http://www.ustreas.gov/tigta/auditreports/2005reports/200520014fr.pdf report from the Treasury Department's IG for tax administration.

The action plan was the result of several studies last fall on the causes of performance problems.

For example, the IG could not find any documented activities requiring enterprise lifecycle training for the IRS or Prime contractor Computer Sciences Corp. "We were informed the BSM Challenges Plan was done in a somewhat random manner," said Gordon Milbourn III, acting deputy IG for audit.

IRS executives and stakeholders did not take each study recommendation and generate an action item to address it, the report said.

The IRS has reviewed the 48 action efforts, reopened several and added more activities. But the IG recommended that IRS CIO Todd Grams re-evaluate the actions taken based on the studies, create a plan to measure whether the work is leading to improvements and place new activities in the IRS' Item Tracking, Reporting and Control database used to record and update the status of efforts.

Grams said in a response to the report that the IRS was already putting in place some of the IG's recommendations. The agency has improved its cost and scheduling performance this year, he said.

"Our delivery record over the past year reflects a program that is operating much more effectively than in the past," Grams said.

The IG recommended the IRS take three additional steps:

Be stringent in ensure projects adhere to the agency's enterprise lifecycle

Designate business architects, not just business requirements directors, to monitor projects

Expand the development environment with more automated testing and separate it from the infrastructure environment.

This is the IG's second critical report of the agency in two weeks. Last week, the IG questioned the IRS' plans for rolling out its Customer Account Data Engine. The auditor urged the agency to conduct more performance testing on the new taxpayer database before proceeding with pilots.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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