Federal IT Dashboard improving but still not wholly accurate

Postings to the Office of Management and Budget's Federal IT Dashboard are more accurate and timely than 18 months ago, but they still aren't giving a perfectly clear picture of government information technology spending, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday.

The Federal IT Dashboard ranks about 800 major IT projects across 27 agencies based on how close they are to cost and schedule targets.

The dashboard was one of several transparency initiatives introduced early in the Obama administration. It was also part of an initiative to reduce waste in government IT spending, which is notorious for going over budget and past deadline.

Cost ratings were accurate for four of the eight information technology projects reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, and schedule ratings were accurate for seven.

That's an improvement over GAO's last review in March, when cost ratings were inaccurate for six of 10 IT projects and schedule rankings were inaccurate for nine of 10 projects.

Most of the errors in both cases were because agencies had uploaded erroneous or incomplete project data, GAO said. All erroneous rankings in the current report were actually lower than GAO's own assessments, according to the report.

In addition to improving accuracy, GAO urged OMB to better parse out performance data so that improved projects aren't dragged down by months-old negative rankings and failing projects aren't buoyed by outdated positive rankings.

Agency chief information officers are responsible for posting monthly updates on project performance to the dashboard. Prior to the dashboard, agencies released IT project performance information quarterly.

An updated version of the dashboard is scheduled to be released in 2012.