Financial Management Systems:

HUD Needs to Address Management and Governance Weaknesses That Jeopardize Its Modernization Efforts

GAO-16-656: Published: Jul 28, 2016. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 2016.

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What GAO Found

In October 2015, as part of its planned New Core financial management systems modernization efforts, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) completed transitioning 4 of 14 capabilities to shared service solutions. The implemented capabilities were for managing employee travel and relocation; recording time and attendance; performing core accounting functions such as general ledger accounting, producing financial reports, and processing salaries and expenses transactions; and managing procurements. As a result, the department reported that it fully replaced 4 systems, gained access to 7 shared service solutions, streamlined administrative services, and added efficiencies to the processing of financial management functions. For example, the systems used for core accounting and procurement were integrated to support the timely recording of commitments and obligations. However, while the 4 capabilities were transitioned as scheduled, none fully met the department's requirements or expectations. For instance, the department continues to execute programmatic transactions using costly and inefficient legacy systems that were expected to be replaced with New Core. HUD has begun other initiatives to deliver financial management systems capabilities and replace legacy systems that were not addressed under New Core. Detailed plans for these efforts are in development.

HUD's efforts to implement planned capabilities for New Core demonstrated weaknesses in the department's information technology (IT) management and governance practices. Key management practices include fully defining what a program is intended to accomplish; developing the program scope, schedule, and costs; and managing requirements. However, HUD's management of New Core had weaknesses in these areas. For example, the department did not:

outline operations for all planned capabilities or create a roadmap for transitioning to the desired modernized environment;

create comprehensive scope, schedule, and cost documentation; and

manage requirements to ensure they were fully documented and traceable from business needs to system implementation.

Effective governance and executive-level oversight also help ensure programs achieve expected results. Specifically, establishing governance control reviews and providing oversight through, among other things, sustained leadership and coordination among stakeholders can strengthen modernization efforts. However, during the effort to implement New Core, HUD's IT governance and oversight were not fully effective. For example, governance reviews did not raise concerns or require improvement plans for management weaknesses identified, such as the lack of a schedule with a valid critical path. Moreover, executive-level oversight did not ensure effective coordination among stakeholders.

With any further pursuit of new initiatives to modernize its financial management systems, it is critical that the department consistently apply key IT management practices and effective governance to ensure it does not jeopardize the success of these efforts.

Why GAO Did This Study

HUD is responsible for managing and reporting on the nearly $45 billion it spends annually for housing programs. The department has reported its reliance on outdated and costly-to-maintain systems used for financial management functions. In 2013, HUD initiated a modernization program called New Core, which involved migrating financial management capabilities to a federal shared service provider, with expected benefits to include reducing legacy systems costs, improving the data, and resolving weaknesses in its financial management systems. After spending about $58 million over 3 years, HUD decided to end New Core development in April 2016.

Congress included a provision for GAO to review the New Core program. This review (1) determined the financial management systems capabilities implemented through New Core and (2) evaluated HUD's implementation of key IT management practices applied to the program. GAO reviewed New Core plans and documentation to assess the capabilities delivered, compared HUD's implementation to recognized IT practices, and interviewed relevant agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is recommending that HUD address weaknesses in key IT management practices for future financial systems modernization efforts and take action to improve its governance and strengthen investment oversight. HUD neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendations, but stated it would improve management practices and governance for future efforts.

For more information, contact Valerie Melvin at (202) 512-6304 or melvinv@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on our draft report, HUD neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations, but noted that it planned to improve management practices and IT governance for future modernization efforts. In May 2017, HUD's Deputy Chief Information Officer reported that that the office was managing multiple enterprise-level initiatives no longer classified as financial management modernization efforts, but which are intended to address certain previously reported financial systems modernization needs. The department provided early high-level requirements and a solution architecture for one such initiative, including a future requirement to support data required for HUD's financial reporting needs from Treasury. However, HUD does not yet have a plan to develop a high-level concept of operations for IT systems anticipated in the future state. We intend to follow up on HUD's actions.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses in the department's financial management systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of HUD should direct the Chief Financial Officer to work with the Chief Information Officer in managing subsequent initiatives to define a high-level depiction of the IT systems anticipated in the future state, a description of the operations that must be performed and who must perform them, and an explanation of where and how the operations are to be carried out.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on our draft report, HUD neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations, but noted that it planned to improve management practices and IT governance for future modernization efforts. In May 2017, the department provided an early project oversight plan and critical task schedule for one initiative related to enterprise data management, but these plans are not comprehensive and do not include, among other things, detailed cost estimates. We intend to follow up on HUD's actions.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses in the department's financial management systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of HUD should direct the Chief Financial Officer to work with the Chief Information Officer in managing subsequent initiatives to develop comprehensive plans for scope, schedule and cost.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on our draft report, HUD neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations, but noted that it planned to improve management practices and IT governance for future modernization efforts. In March 2017, the department reported that the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Information Officer intend to partner on future departmental financial management systems modernization efforts to fully document requirements and trace requirements to the functionality in the modernized system. In May 2017, department officials reported that the subsequent initiatives underway were following an Agile process yielding product-release backlogs as documentation of requirements for ongoing initiatives. They provided the initial backlog for an enterprise data management initiative. However, HUD could not demonstrate that these requirements were complete and traceable to mission needs. We intend to follow up on HUD's actions.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses in the department's financial management systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of HUD should direct the Chief Financial Officer to work with the Chief Information Officer in managing subsequent initiatives to ensure requirements are fully documented and traceable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on our draft report, HUD neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations, but noted that it planned to improve management practices and IT governance for future modernization efforts. In March 2017, the department reported on its fiscal year 2016 updates to charters of its IT governance boards, which provide oversight of all its IT investments, including financial management initiatives, and noted that business cases for proposed development and modernization initiatives had been discussed at governance meetings. HUD also reported that it had set up steering committees to supplement board governance and monitoring two enterprise-level modernization efforts and planned to apply mechanisms, such as project health assessments, intended to establish effective investment oversight. However, HUD has not yet demonstrated that the updated governance control activities have improved program monitoring and identified any needed corrective actions or that planned oversight mechanisms have improved coordination with stakeholders or alignment of modernization efforts. We intend to follow up on HUD's actions to ensure that planned improvements to governance and oversight mechanisms are effectively implemented and institutionalized.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should also direct the Deputy Secretary to ensure that the Chief Information Officer takes action to improve IT governance control activities used for monitoring programs and identifying needed corrective actions, and strengthen investment oversight by improving coordination with stakeholders and alignment among IT modernization efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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