Indian Trust Funds:

Improvements Made in Acquisition of New Asset and Accounting System But Significant Risks Remain

AIMD-00-259: Published: Sep 15, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of the Interior's effort to acquire and develop its new Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS), focusing on: (1) actions Interior has taken in response to GAO's previous reviews and recommendations; and (2) the business and technical risks and challenges still confronting Interior as it begins to deploy TAAMS.

GAO noted that: (1) Interior is taking positive actions to address several of the concerns raised in GAO's 1999 reports as well as additional concerns raised in GAO's subsequent briefings on TAAMS testing efforts; (2) Interior has taken actions to strengthen its testing processes; (3) Interior is beginning to develop an information systems architecture for Indian trust management which is needed to ensure that trust fund and related systems are interoperable, function together efficiently, and are cost-effective over their life cycles; (4) these actions are good steps toward enhancing management of the TAAMS effort; (5) however, there are a number of major business and technical challenges that still put the TAAMS effort at considerable risk; (6) as to the business challenges, Interior has not yet completed actions designed to enhance overall trust fund management, including its efforts to revamp policies and procedures for the entire trust management cycle and to address long-standing internal control weaknesses; (7) both efforts could have a significant impact on TAAMS because they may require new features to be built into the system or current capabilities to be modified and, in turn, increase the risk of introducing new system defects; (8) fixing such defects late in the development effort can be very costly; (9) in addition, Interior has not reengineered the business processes that TAAMS is to support even though these processes were designed in a very different system environment; (10) without taking time now to examine and revise its business processes, Interior will not be able to maximize the benefits that can be gained from TAAMS and it may perpetuate outmoded ways of doing business; (11) on the technical side, there are actions underway to strengthen Interior's management of the TAAMS project, such as hiring a contractor to evaluate data integrity and the adoption of more disciplined testing processes; and (12) there are challenging undertakings still ahead.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To facilitate Interior's adoption of disciplined software and acquisition processes, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Chief Information Officer to define and manage the requirements that TAAMS should meet using accepted processes. Once the requirements have been adequately defined, perform a gap analysis to assess whether TAAMS is capable of providing the necessary functionality and what modifications, if any, are necessary to address Interior's needs. If modifications are needed, then Interior should develop the cost, schedule, and performance impacts of making those modifications.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior officials have contracted with an information technology firm to develop, define, and document requirements for trust asset management. That project is now underway and a completion date has yet to be established.

    Recommendation: To facilitate Interior's adoption of disciplined software and acquisition processes, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Chief Information Officer to ensure that contractors used by Interior to develop software systems have implemented disciplined software development processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior officials have not initiated action on this recommendation as of August 2004.

    Recommendation: To facilitate Interior's adoption of disciplined software and acquisition processes, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Chief Information Officer to evaluate existing software development and acquisition processes against the Capability Maturity Models developed for these activities by the Software Engineering Institute, implement disciplined processes where they are lacking, and regularly assess progress in this regard.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior officials have not initiated action on this recommendation as of August 2004.

    Recommendation: To ensure that TAAMS is fully aligned with trust management needs and that Interior's use of the systems is optimized, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to work with the Special Trustee for American Indians to do the following before phase II of TAAMS: (1) examine and revise business processes supported by TAAMS; (2) properly develop and implement data conversion plans; and (3) evaluate and revise policies, procedures, and internal controls relating to TAAMS: ensure that top trust fund managers across the department participate in this effort; and ensure that any needed modifications to TAAMS are made and tested.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior officials have hired a contractor to identify and document Interior's trust management business processes. No completion date has been established for this effort as of August 2004.

    Recommendation: To ensure that TAAMS can properly interoperate with other trust fund systems, GAO reiterates its recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior to develop an information systems technology architecture for trust fund operations. In the interim, the Secretary should direct the Chief Information Officer to: (1) perform an analysis of the infrastructure necessary to support the TAAMS application and ensure its adequacy; and (2) ensure that TAAMS can interface with TFAS and MMS systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Open

    Comments: Based on information GAO obtained while performing a survey of the Department of the Interior's systems enterprise architecture, Interior is in the process of developing a trust fund architecture. An analysis of the necessary infrastructure has not yet been initiated, and necessary interfaces between the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System and other Interior systems have not been developed as of August 2004.

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