Inspector General slams VA's IT oversight

More than five years after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched a new system to manage its IT projects, its still lacks the required discipline and accountability for effective oversight, according to a new inspector general report.

The Program Management Accountability System (PMAS) was intended to help the VA manage large, complicated projects in small increments. Though announced in 2009, reports in 2011 and 2013 found much work still to be done on the system.

While the Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) has made progress, it did not fully implement all of the previous recommendations.

In particular, the report found that the Office of Product Development and the Enterprise Risk Management Office were performing planning and compliance reviews in only a fraction of cases. When this was done, cost information posted on the system's dashboard was not always accurate.

"Project managers continued to struggle with capturing and reporting reliable cost information," the IG report stated.

In addition, OIG found too many vacancies within the PMAS business office, with the work carried out by contractors. The VA, it said, could put approximately $6.4 million to better use over a five-year period by hiring full-time staff for the vacant positions.

The report recommended that the VA:

  • Consistently perform planning reviews to determine whether a project should move forward, be re-evaluated or scrapped
  • Also conduct independent, periodic reviews of the PMAS Dashboard data to ensure reliability and completeness
  • Modify the dashboard so that it maintains a complete audit trail of baseline data
  • Capture and report reliable cost data on the incremental level on the dashboard

In his confirmation hearings, new VA Secretary Robert McDonald stressed the use of IT as vital to turning the agency around.

In July 2009, then-VA CIO Roger Baker suspended nearly 50 failing IT projects, including an online appointment scheduling system. After the massive wait-time scandal last year, the VA is working on a new scheduling system, expected to roll out by 2017.

To learn more:
- find the report (.pdf)