EPA IT projects need better oversight, cost controls, IG concludes

Environmental Protection Agency IT project managers did not provide sufficient oversight of several programs, resulting in increased costs and scheduling delays, the agency's inspector general has concluded.

According to the IG's report, EPA's Office of Environmental Information 'did not sufficiently oversee information technology projects to ensure they met planned budgets and schedules. The increased cost and schedule delays for the projects reviewed may have been averted or lessened with adequate oversight.'

The IG mainly focused on two IT projects: the CFO's Financial Replacement System PeoplePlus payroll and HR functions, and the Office of Air and Radiation's Clean Air Markets Division Business System (CAMDBS), a tool that integrates functions and data for EPA's emission trading programs.

PeoplePlus, the IG reported, cost $3.7 million more than initially budgeted and took one year longer to implement. The program was expected to go live in October 2003 but was delayed until 2004.

Modifications to CAMDBS, meanwhile, 'have already increased costs about $2.8 million and extended the target completion date by two years,' the report said. This system was launched in 2001 and was expected to be completed by 2006.

'[B]oth PeoplePlus and CAMDBS advanced from phase to phase even though the system managers did not prepare all of the required documents,' the IG said. 'For example, there was no decision paper prepared during the implementation phase of live-cycle development to document the inherent risks to changing commercial off-the-shelf software, or to the risks involved in modifying the PeoplePlus testing approach.'

The IG recommended that EPA's CIO take responsibility for conducting independent reviews of IT projects and revise procedures to document a project's status.

EPA CIO Kimberly Nelson said she agreed with most of the report and will have a formal response along with a corrective action plan by the end of the year. An agency spokeswoman added, however, that the account does not consider all of the EPA's oversight programs.

While the agency agrees with the report for the most part, an OEI spokeswoman said it 'does not present a balanced picture of the work being done at EPA to manage IT policy and investments.'

For instance, the report focuses on the CAMDBS and PeoplePlus projects but does not 'take EPA's other established oversight mechanisms into account, such as our IT capital planning, investment control and enterprise architecture processes,' the spokeswoman said. 'We believe these mechanisms do provide adequate oversight,' she added.

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