HHS failed to review IT investments

The U.S. Departments of Health & Human Services and Veterans Affairs are among seven federal agencies scrutinized in a recently published Government Accountability Office report for failing to conduct operational analyses (OAs) on 2012 IT operations and maintenance investments worth hundreds of millions--and in one case billions--of dollars.

For the report, GAO put the 10 federal IT O&M investments with the largest budgets in FY2012--operated by eight agencies, overall--under a microscope. For HHS, the infrastructure for the National Institutes of Health proved to be the largest IT O&M investment, at $358 million. Two VA investments made the list: medical IT support ($1.05 billion) and enterprise IT support ($665 million). Of the 10 investments listed, only the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's customs and border protection infrastructure investment ($529 million) underwent an operational analysis.

The report's authors noted that without operational analyses, agencies can't assess whether or not their "multibillion investments fully meet intended objectives."

"Agency officials cited several reasons for not [conducting OAs], including relying on budget submission and related management reviews that measure performance," the report said. "However, [the Office of Management and Budget] has noted that these are not a substitute for OAs."

Officials from NIH, according to the report, said their investment did not undergo an OA because "this investment is an aggregation of all the components' infrastructure and not a particular system or set of systems suited for this kind of macro analysis." VA officials, meanwhile, said such a reviews weren't conducted on their medical IT support or enterprise IT support investments "because performance is currently being reported monthly via the Federal IT Dashboard and internally through monthly performance reviews."

David Powner, director of IT and management issues with GAO, told radio program Federal Drive yesterday that OAs can help to, for instance, eliminate duplicative efforts, Federal News Radio reported.

"[W]e're in a situation where we have $8 billion in these 10 investments and nine of them aren't getting the critical look that they deserve," Powner said. "This is real money and there's a lot of duplication. There's better ways of doing things and we really need to scrutinize the steady-state investments."

In September, 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 had six duplicative systems costing $256 million, alone, according to a GAO report.

Meanwhile, another GAO report released last week found that CIOs at federal government agencies--including the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Department of Veterans Affairs--don't have enough authority, particularly when it comes to spending.

To learn more:
- here's the GAO report (.pdf)
- read the Federal News Radio article

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