GAO, agencies rate e-gov success differently

Even though several Quicksilver project managers trumpeted the success of their projects and e-government in general before lawmakers yesterday, the General Accounting Office offered a more cautious view.

Linda Koontz, GAO's director of information management issues, told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census that most of the 25 e-government projects failed to meet or only partially met many of their objectives over the last two years.

The audit agency found that only two projects'Grants.gov and IRS Freefile'achieved all their objectives, and five accomplished more than half. Of the 91 objectives originally set out for the projects, examiners said 33 have been met; 38 have been partially achieved; and for 17, no significant progress has been made.

Koontz said the projects have made 'mixed progress.' She said some have given citizens 'valuable new capabilities to interact and conduct business more efficiently with their government,' while others have completed the objectives slowly or have changed them.

Project Safecom, Consolidated Health Informatics and the Business Gateway were examples of slow-moving e-government projects, she said.

Until agencies work together better and get strong support from their executives to change the way they operate, the e-government projects are unlikely to meet their objectives and realize their potential for greatly improving government service to citizens, she said.

But while Koontz expressed concern over the initiatives, project managers said the initiatives have achieved much success.

Kim Nelson, CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she was shocked by how much progress agencies have made.

'Based on my state government experience, I would never have guessed we would have advanced so far,' she said. 'This is pretty remarkable, and we've done it without a blueprint to follow.'

Norm Enger, e-government project director for the Office of Personnel Management, said he was skeptical that much would get done on his agency's five projects.

'We have been able to show change can take place,' he said. 'E-government broke the ice because of intelligent planning and leadership. We showed we can transform how government works.'

Even subcommittee chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), said he was pleased with the progress of the initiatives.

'This was one of the more happy hearings we've had in a while,' he said.

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