GAO to investigate OMB's IT project at-risk list

'The watch list is one of many tools we use to inform our decision-making.'

' OMB's Karen Evans

Henrik G. de Gyor

Since the Office of Management and Budget will not voluntarily give its management watch list to Rep. Adam Putnam, the Florida Republican has sent the Government Accountability Office after it.

Putnam asked GAO to evaluate how OMB determines what IT projects are at risk of failing and what is being done to improve them after being rebuffed by administration officials last spring at a hearing.

Officials said they could not provide the subcommittee with a copy of the list be- cause it includes predecision budgetary information based on the business cases agencies submit.

So Putnam, former chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census, asked GAO to investigate the management watch list'which is also known as the at-risk list'and the processes behind it. The watchdog agency's examination could yield insight for agencies into how to meet OMB's demands for better project management.

'The subcommittee continues to be interested in working with OMB to be sure we are making the most efficient, productive and cost-effective approach to IT decision making,' said Bob Dix, the subcommittee staff director. 'We are anxious to see the results of the evaluation of the watch list to see how we can be partners in the progress of improving the overall approach.'

David Powner, GAO's director of IT management issues, said the audit agency has three objectives for the report:
  • Look at the process OMB uses to put projects on the watch list

  • Determine the process OMB uses to ensure corrective actions are taken and how OMB withholds funds on those projects that haven't improved

  • Evaluate the current status of the watch list, including how many projects are on it and how much funding they receive.

GAO has not had its initial meeting with OMB yet, Powner said. 'After a couple of meetings, we will determine what the job entails and when we will report out.'

Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for IT and e-government, said she looks forward to explaining the IT budget review process. 'The watch list is one of many tools we use to inform our decision-making.'

Powner said wants to finish the review by late spring.

'We hope we can work effectively with OMB, particularly in how they get projects off the list,' he said. 'We hope OMB doesn't tell us the list is too sensitive, especially if we look at what happened with the 2004 list.'

During fiscal 2005 budget reviews in February, OMB put 621 projects with budgets totaling $22 billion on the at-risk list for missing at least one of three major requirements: IT security, a qualified full-time project manager and defined performance measures.

The number of projects on the list was down from the 2004 submission of 771 programs with budgets totaling $20.9 billion.

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