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Issa blasts federal IT management, releases business systems surveys

A Congressionally-requested survey of how agencies manage their business and accounting information technology systems reveals too much work is still being done manually and not enough data is being made public, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., charged Tuesday.

Issa released agency responses to the survey late Tuesday, along with a statement in which the Oversight Committee's majority staffers said agencies were relying on "a disparate web" of "inherently problematic" manual processes to transfer data between different IT systems and that they aren't making significant efforts to automate processes.

Neither the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elija Cummings, D-Md., nor Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate panel that deals with most internal IT systems, immediately responded to a request for comment on the survey responses or on Issa's statement Tuesday. It was not clear whether either lawmaker had received an advance copy of the survey results.

Issa has sponsored legislation known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which would standardize financial reporting from federal agencies and haul it into a single, central and public website modeled on Recovery.gov, which tracks federal stimulus spending.

The legislation has passed the committee and is awaiting action on the House floor. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has sponsored companion legislation in the Senate and the White House has thrown its support behind a similar system through an executive order.

According to the Oversight staff review, 21 of 26 agencies reported "widespread" use of manual processes when managing data, which can lead to more errors than a purely digital process, and 10 agencies "did not provide sufficient answers to Oversight [Committee] questions on the public availability of management IT data."

Issa and other transparency advocates have charged that agencies make too little effort to disclose grant, contract and other financial data on their own websites, which means the data is often outdated or simply incorrect when it is disclosed on USASpending.gov and other government websites.

An analysis by the Sunlight Foundation transparency group found that only about 35 percent of grants data on USASpending.gov is completely accurate.

Issa and other Republican committee members sent a letter to agencies in March requesting information about how they manage their financial and accounting data. The letter requested agency responses by March 22, but many of the responses are dated April and later.

Responses from a few agencies were discussed during a hearing by a House Oversight Committee panel on technology July 14, but that hearing was largely devoted to farewell statements by outgoing Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, who recently left government to take a fellowship at Harvard University.

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