Senators Zero in on ‘Inaccurate’ IT Dashboard Ratings

IT Dashboard

A key Senate committee says its examining "the lack of transparency and inaccuracy of risk information” posted by agencies on the IT Dashboard.

The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are cracking down on agency chief information officers who don’t appear to be accurately reporting the risks associated with large-scale IT projects.

They’re starting with the Treasury Department.

The committee “is examining the lack of transparency and inaccuracy of risk information” posted by agencies on the IT Dashboard, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Tom Carper, D-Del., the chairman and ranking member of the committee, wrote in an April 20 letter to Treasury CIO Sonny Bhagowalia.

“We are concerned that a number of agencies appear to be reporting questionable risk ratings for their respective IT projects,” the letter stated.

The IT Dashboard is a public website designed to provide a snapshot of federal IT spending and performance.

Treasury lists nearly 60 major IT investments on the dashboard. The vast majority is rated “green,” denoting a project at low risk for falling behind schedule, going over-budget or otherwise running off the rails. No projects are marked “red,” or high risk.

However, the senators say the Internal Revenue Service -- which is part of Treasury -- reported to Congress last year that its chief technology officer rated three of its projects high risk. That meant “an eminent threat has been identified that puts the program deliverables in jeopardy,” according to the letter. Another four projects had been identified by the CTO as moderate risk.

All told, the at-risk programs totaled more than $1.4 billion in agency spending.

Despite this, the IT Dashboard (which relies on an agency CIO’s evaluation of IT projects) listed all those potentially troubled projects as low risk.

The senators wanted Bhagowalia to explain the discrepancy between his risk rating and the IRS CTO’s evaluation.

Johnson and Carper also want Bhagowalia to explain the extent to which input from component-level CTOs and CIOs is used to determine project’ risk ratings that show up on the IT Dashboard.

A Treasury spokesman did not respond to Nextgov’s request for comment.

“The value of the IT Dashboard to taxpayers is dependent upon the accuracy and timeliness of the risk information it displays,” Johnson and Carper wrote in the letter. “Inaccurate or dated information prevents the public from understanding how their tax dollars are being used and inhibits Congress’ ability to track the progress of IT projects over time.”

Of the 738 major IT projects currently listed on the dashboard, more than 75 percent are rated low risk. Just 50 total projects are deemed high risk.

In addition to Treasury, the departments of Justice, State and Housing and Urban Development along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the General Services Administration and NASA list none of their major IT investments as high risk.