Farmers Home Administration Needs To Better Plan, Direct, Develop, and Control Its Computer-Based Unified Management Information System

CED-78-68: Published: Feb 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1978.

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The Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) provides financial assistance to rural Americans who are unable to obtain credit from other sources at reasonable rates and terms. In 1974, FmHA decided that the deficiencies of its management information system warranted replacement rather than modification and began developing a computer-based system, the Unified Management Information System (UMIS), to provide better management information at all levels. The objectives of UMIS were: to provide an accounting system that meets GAO requirements; to provide responsive, timely management information to managers at county, district, state, finance, and national office levels; to minimize office workloads required to provide basic input data; and to improve capabilities to service loan applicants and borrowers in rural America.

The development of UMIS began in 1975 and has continued without the benefit of a formal project control mechanism to track the progress of UMIS development and its associated costs. Schedule slippages have occurred as a result of FmHA inadequacies in the planning of, and control over, UMIS. FmHA cost-benefit analysis was not adequate because total development costs had not been determined, and the methodology used in the analysis was not sound. The initial decision to develop UMIS Full Field Service (FFS) was not based on a study of agency needs, and the test period of 6 months for FFS was insufficient to eliminate design and start-up problems. FmHA has not performed an analysis to determine the possible impact of various reorganization proposals on UMIS. There is no steering committee of top managers representing user organizations, management, and designers to assure that UMIS is being effectively developed.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct FmHA to: intensify its effort in installing the computerized project control mechanism; establish a budget to cover the development and operation phases of UMIS; note UMIS as a separate line item in FmHA budget justification; install a cost accounting system to account for all costs incurred during the system design, development, and operational life cycle; redefine agency needs in terms which are more specific and quantifiable to provide criteria for evaluating UMIS alternatives; test the FFS version of UMIS for a period of 1 year rather than 6 months; defer expanding FFS to other offices until the test is completed and the results evaluated; and complete a formal, analytical study to evaluate the impact on UMIS of recent and proposed organizational changes.

    Agency Affected:

 

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