IT projects may not be getting enough oversight

Watchdog recommends closer tracking and more CIO accountability.

The White House should do a better job of tracking whether agencies’ major technology projects are at risk of going off the rails and agencies should perform more oversight on their operations and maintenance spending, according to two recent watchdog reports.

The first report, released publicly by the Government Accountability Office Friday, noted that agency chief information officers were more likely to rate their IT investments as low or moderately low risk than high or moderately high risk on the government’s IT Dashboard. The government’s largest technology spender, the Defense Department, listed all of its investments as low or moderately low risk, GAO said.

The IT Dashboard was launched in 2009 as part of President Obama’s open government initiative. Agency CIOs were forced to attest to the riskiness of investments as part of an effort to raise accountability for large IT projects, which have a history of running over budget and past deadline.

The GAO report did not directly assert agency CIOs are being overly optimistic. It recommended, however, that the Office of Management and Budget evaluate trends in CIO ratings and performance and present them along with the president’s annual budget submission. The report also recommended that the Defense Department reconsider its process for evaluating risk in IT projects.

The second GAO report, released publicly Thursday, found agencies were not sufficiently measuring the performance of ongoing IT investments and so may be missing out on potential savings.

Collectively, the Defense, Veterans Affairs and Treasury departments did not evaluate the performance of 23 major ongoing investments that have annual budgets totaling $2.1 billion, GAO said.

The Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments evaluated some of their ongoing investments but did not evaluate others and did not use all of the criteria OMB recommended, GAO said. 

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