Human Services:

Federal Approval and Funding Processes for States' Information Systems

GAO-02-347T: Published: Jul 9, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 2002.

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This testimony discusses federal agency processes for approval of state information technology (IT) projects supporting state-administered federal human services programs. Federal approval and funding processes for state IT development and acquisition projects for the Child Support Enforcement, Child Welfare, and Food Stamps programs require the establishment of federal funding participation rates, the documentation that states must submit, and the time frames in which the federal agency must respond to the request. Assessment of the federal approval and funding process requires complete and reliable data that track a request from agency receipt until the agency finally approves or disapproves the request. However, such information is not readily available and the process cannot be thoroughly assessed because (1) the system used by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) headquarters to manage the approval process does not track the life cycle of a request and (2) the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and CMS regional offices do not have a central tracking system. However, in a vast majority of cases, agencies responded to states' IT planning and acquisition requests within 60 days, as required by regulation. State cost allocation plans--which are used to identify, measure, and allocate expected project costs among the state and the federal programs--for systems development and acquisition projects must be approved by each federal agency expected to provide funding. To ensure that they provide a consistent response to state requests that include cost allocation plans, ACF, CMS, and FNS officials stated that they coordinate their reviews of multiprogram requests. These reviews are based on the requirements in OMB Circular A-87, which provides the states wide latitude in developing cost allocation plans for IT development and acquisition projects.

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