GAO: FBI needs to refine cost controls for Sentinel

The FBI must establish more stringent controls over contractor expenses on the $425 million Sentinel automated case-management system to keep close tabs on project costs and assets acquired through the project, government auditors said in a new report.

Although the FBI has made some progress toward strengthening internal oversight of Sentinel, tighter controls are necessary, the General Accountability Office said in a report released today. GAO conducted the audit from August 2006 through May 2008.

Sentinel is designed to replace a case-management system that was slated to be part of the bureau's failed Trilogy project. As envisioned, Sentinel would create Web-enabled systems that manage records, workflow and evidence, and allow agents to search records. The FBI awarded the Sentinel contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. in March 2006.

FBI officials plan to launch Sentinel in four phases, with the full system available by 2010. The first phase was completed in April 2007.

Lawmakers asked GAO to review the FBI's internal controls over expenditures for Sentinel's development and implementation. In the course of its audit, GAO assessed the FBI's controls to see if they are capable of preventing or detecting improper payments and able to maintain proper accountability for equipment bought for the project.

GAO tested the property controls established by the Sentinel project management office. They are designed to provide detailed oversight of the project's technical and financial aspects on a daily basis.

In light of its findings, GAO recommended that the FBI take the following steps:
  • Establish procedures to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the Lockheed Martin database used to create the official FBI property record in the bureau's property management application.
  • Reconcile asset records with underlying source documents as part of the monthly process of reviewing and approving invoices.
  • Establish policies and procedures to document initial inspection of Sentinel assets and verification of the bar codes assigned to them.
  • Capture property data so the project management office can monitor compliance with its policy requiring that all accountable property be recorded within 27 days of receipt.

GAO auditors said they did not identify any missing assets but did find 20 property records for which there were discrepancies among the values recorded in the contractor database, property management application and contractor invoices.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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