NASA moves ahead with its renamed management system
Despite IG criticism, program manager remains optimistic
- By Patience Wait
- Mar 03, 2006
"We got a little bit of a haircut [in the budget], but got basically what we asked for." ' Patrick Ciganer, NASA
LLUSTRATION BY Scripps Howard Illustrations
While a new inspector general's report continues to find problems with NASA's efforts to institute an enterprisewide management system, the program's manager says that the toughest challenges have been met and prospects are good for smoother implementation of additional elements.
As part of that more positive outlook'or perhaps in an attempt to distance the program from previous years' bad press'NASA has renamed the troubled program.
Once known as the Integrated Financial Management Program, the space agency's project to implement a standard financial system for all its components has been dubbed the Integrated Enterprise Management Program.
Perhaps more significant, NASA has added a budgetary revision that, for the first time in its six-year life, makes IEMP a separate line item.
Patrick Ciganer, the IEMP program executive officer, said the name change is more than cosmetic.
'We were always very emphatic about saying this is more than an accounting system,' he said. 'It's a true enterprise management system, and the long-term goal is to help the agency manage more efficiently its major programs and projects.'
Ciganer also said he's satisfied with making IEMP a separate line item.
'Although it was called a program, it was discretionary every year,' coming out of NASA's general and administrative account, he said. 'Every year we were at risk.'
But making IEMP a line-item program will increase the visibility of a program that already has garnered more than its share of negative attention. Both Congress and the Government Accountability Office have called on the agency to account for poor execution of the program.
While Ciganer is sanguine about IEMP's prospects for the upcoming year, NASA's acting inspector general, Evelyn Klemstine, continues to find problems.
A report issued Feb. 6 by the IG was critical of NASA's management of IEMP task orders and blanket purchase orders.
From the program's inception through Dec. 31, 2004, the IG found NASA made 82 IEMP-related awards to 29 contractors, with a combined potential value of about $630 million. The IG's office looked at oversight practices for five of those awards'and the task orders issued under those awards, worth about $213.5 million, or 34 percent of the total contract value up to that date'and raised serious concerns about three of the five contracts.
For example, contracting officers at one NASA center allowed SAP of America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa., the prime contractor for the software modules, to 'continually submit late, inaccurate, incomplete or unsupported invoices and did not ensure that invoice errors were properly resolved,' the report said.
The IG's auditors also found that contracting personnel allowed both SAP and Accenture LLP of Reston, Va., to provide services without proper task order modifications when required or, in at least one case, without a valid task order at all. In the second case, Accenture provided services from October 2003 through January 2004 even though the task order had expired on Sept. 30, 2003; the associate director for acquisition at Goddard had to ratify unauthorized commitments of $1.2 million.
The agency's decentralized structure'with 10 centers that frequently operate semiautonomously from headquarters'has been an ongoing source of problems. The IG report found that two centers that issued task orders had different policies and procedures for similar work, and inconsistent contract oversight practices.
Ciganer defended NASA's performance on IEMP, pointing out that problems in producing financial statements were not due to unreliable historical data, but because every open contract had to have both current and historical information converted to the new system.
'If we were focusing only on the current year audit ... we'd have a clean audit opinion without blinking,' Ciganer said. 'But there were a lot of questions [about] the way some of our assets deployed in space were valued.'
And NASA's selection of SAP introduced challenges, as well.
'We are the first agencywide implementation of SAP core financial ... so up to a point, we helped SAP define requirements,' Ciganer said.
For example, the initial SAP configuration supported 999 line items per project, when an undertaking such as the space station requires 'two orders of magnitude' more items, he said.
Having funds dedicated to IEMP will make it easier to highlight cost overruns if problems continue.
In the current-year budget, $76.9 million was directly allotted to IEMP, but there were other elements of the project in other categories, Ciganer said, making the true figure $150.5 million.
In fiscal 2007 NASA asked for'and the administration has budgeted'$108.2 million, he said, and the planned request for 2008 is $106.9 million.
'We got a little bit of a haircut, but got basically what we asked for,' Ciganer said.
While the decline from current spending is steep, he said the drop reflects the completed deployment of the core financial module.
This central element 'is stable enough that we're already planning an upgrade,' he said, another reason the 2006 budget is so much higher.
Despite the problems identified by the IG, NASA continues to be committed to implementing all of IEMP, Ciganer said.
'There are several other modules [and] projects as part of the IEMP that are coming down the line,' he said. For instance, 'we are very close to migrating e-travel.'