GAO faults OMB's oversight of IT projects

The Office of Management and Budget is not adequately monitoring $22 billion worth of mission-critical federal IT projects, according to a new Government Accountability Office report released today.

OMB rejected the findings, defending its management and oversight activities.

The dispute centers on 621 major federal IT projects placed by OMB on a "Management Watch List" for 2005, because the projects were deficient in performance, management or IT security.

GAO contends that OMB never actually compiled a comprehensive watch list identifying the projects and their weaknesses. Moreover, OMB has not done enough to monitor those deficient IT programs and determine whether problems are being fixed, GAO said.

"OMB did not develop a structured, consistent process for deciding how to follow up on corrective actions that it asked agencies to take to address weaknesses associated with projects on the Management Watch list," GAO said.

GAO said OMB did not know which of the 621 projects received follow-up attention or whether the specific risks identified with the projects are being managed effectively.

"This approach could leave resources at risk of being committed to poorly planned and managed projects," GAO said.

However, Karen Evans, OMB administrator for e-government and information technology, disputed GAO's findings.

"We disagree with your assessment that an aggregated governmentwide list is necessary for OMB to perform adequate oversight and management, and that OMB does not know whether risks were being managed effectively," Evans wrote in an appendix to the GAO report.

Evans said OMB works closely with each agency to monitor project planning and assess performance. "Responsibility for ensuring corrective actions for the management watch list investments rests with each individual agency," Evans wrote.

For the fiscal 2006 budget, OMB has put 342 major federal IT projects totaling $15 billion on its Management Watch List. The total projected White House budget for IT projects in 2006 is $65 billion.

The GAO report was released by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, at a hearing today.

"The Committee is interested in exploring whether OMB has fully exploited the opportunity to use the Watch list as a tool for analyzing IT investments on a government-wide basis, or has limited its ability to identify and report on the full set of IT investments requiring corrective actions," Davis said in a prepared statement.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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