Management

Policy failures led to waste, redundant IT purchases at State Dept.

Poor coordination between components and the lack of a comprehensive policy has led to a number of redundant and bad IT investments at the State Department, according to a newly released audit.

An audit conducted by Kearney & Company, P.C. on behalf of the inspector general uncovered 30 distinct issues with the department's IT acquisition methods. While officials with the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) had solutions ready to go for 11 of these issues, 19 remain outstanding and could lead to further waste and duplication.

Download: Audit of State Department Process to Select and Approve IT Investments

The State Department spent approximately $1.4 billion on IT acquisitions in fiscal 2014, spread across 83 separate projects. While that number is dwarfed by the $76 billion agencies spent on IT as a whole that year, duplicative purchases and a failure to track and report spending led to significant waste.

Auditors found the agency's IT acquisition policies weren't up to date, including an outdated definition of 'IT investments' that doesn't line up with the definitions used by the Office of Management and Budget and no process to identify redundant purchases.

"The policy was insufficient primarily because the department did not have a process for IRM management to approve updates to the policy," according to the report. "As a result, the department cannot ensure that IT investments are made in accordance with OMB requirements."

To its credit, the department's policy complies with 16 of 18 metrics Kearney used to compare it with OMB requirements.

However, even though a policy does exist, auditors found it wasn't always followed. This was largely due to a lack of input and authority from the CIO's office

"The bureaus, not the CIO, controlled the funding for many department IT investments," according to the auditors, who reviewed five major and 18 non-major investments. "Because the department has not standardized and enforced requirements for IT selection and approval, stakeholders lacked visibility into the department's IT portfolio. Further, Kearney identified instances in which duplicative investments were made."

State Department officials — primarily with IRM — disagreed on a number of the auditor's recommendations, defending a number of its policies and reporting structure.

The IG accepted a few of IRM's alternative solutions to its recommendations but left 19 of the 30 issues open.

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