US GOVERNMENT auditors at the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, have released a study (pdf) identifying more than 400 federal IT projects worth about $25 billion as poorly planned or underperforming.
Though primly worded, that's auditor-speak for blowing the money and screwing the pooch.
Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) is concerned that federal agencies are spending billions on IT projects that are redundant, lack clear objectives and are managed by incompetents, he suggested yesterday. Citing the GAO findings, he said it might be time for Congress to scrap some of those projects.
He also noted that, unfortunately, federal agencies have been consistently failing to provide Congress with adequate information about their IT projects to enable it to perform effective oversight. Even worse, almost 50 per cent of federal IT investments are hiding their project debacles from Congress, 'rebaselining' projects – sometimes repeatedly – to cover up cost overruns and mask schedule slippages.
Senator Carper, with fellow Senators Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, will introduce the Technology Investment and Waste Prevention Act of 2008 this week to give Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) better information about federal IT projects. The bill would require agencies to report regularly on significant deviations in cost, schedule and performance.
It is not reported whether that proposed legislation will have any real teeth. Congress has required federal agencies to keep IT project costs, schedules and achievement of objectives within 90 per cent of plans since 1994. The OMB has been responsible for giving Congress a mandatory annual report on the agencies' IT projects, but it has produced only three of those reports in the last 14 years. Congress has so far failed to do anything about that.
Zero-based budgeting of government IT projects, where all federal agencies are required to produce audited reports on projects' progress annually to retain their funding, might help.
But then, what's a mere $25 billion out of the US Congressional pork barrel, much of which goes straight into the pockets of campaign-contributing IT project-outsourcing contractors within the US military / industrial complex, compared against the approximately $25 billion that the US government wastes in Iraq and Afghanistan each and every month? µ
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