Duplicate IT systems cost HHS millions

An auditor found more than $300 million in duplicative IT systems at three different government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services--which has six duplicative systems costing $256 million alone--according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The six potentially duplicative investments at HHS include four investments that support enterprise information security and two for Medicare coverage determination, according to GAO. The 12 total duplicative systems in total have cost taxpayers $321 million since 2008.

"With so much money on the line, it is critical that our government agencies are doing everything possible to save taxpayer money," Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. "An important part of this effort is to ensure that we are not investing in programs that unnecessarily overlap or are duplicative."

HHS officials disagreed that its information security investments were duplicative, but nonetheless plan to review them this month to "identify opportunities for consolidation." As for the Medicare coverage determination investments? HHS officials noted that they have "consolidated several functions but could not provide documented justification for why the other functions were not consolidated." By addressing these duplications, the agencies can assure they are avoiding investing in unnecessary systems and thus saving resources, the GAO stated.

This isn't the first time duplicated or poorly communicated government efforts have resulted in a mess of wasted money and time. In February, the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, which initially had planned to create a joint records system from the ground up for electronic health records, cited budgetary and time constraints when they announced that they instead would focus on using "existing solutions" to combine their current and disparate systems.

To learn more:
- read the GAO report
- check out Carper's statement

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