Data Processing:

SBA Needs To Strengthen Management of Its Computer Systems

IMTEC-86-28: Published: Aug 29, 1986. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Small Business Administration's (SBA) automated systems and information resources management (IRM) activities to determine whether they: (1) assist its regional and district offices in carrying out SBA major programs; and (2) are adequate, appropriate, and effective.

GAO found that: (1) SBA did not systematically involve field offices in the design and development of six primary automated systems that supported major programs; (2) SBA did not have an ongoing review process for field users to identify and report system problems after systems became operational; and (3) certain systems produced inaccurate and untimely reports, did not provide access to some data in the central systems, or lacked information the field offices required to better manage SBA programs. GAO also found that SBA: (1) did not formalize its data processing planning or adequately include field-office users and top management in this process; (2) lacked contractor performance measures and cost controls in its data processing contracts; (3) supervised contractor personnel under 15 data processing contracts in fiscal year 1985, contrary to federal regulations; (4) acquired a minicomputer through unsound purchase practices and without sufficient procurement and legal staff review; and (5) did not have independent, internal reviews to ensure that systems were well-designed or were working properly.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The SBA Office of General Counsel (OGC) was included as a member of the SBA ADP Acquisition Committee. In addition, a policy was established to conduct monthly meetings with IRM, procurement, administrative, and OGC representatives to coordinate and resolve contractual issues.

    Recommendation: To make SBA automated systems more useful to program and field offices and to strengthen IRM activities, the Acting Administrator, SBA, should strengthen the management of data processing acquisitions by establishing written policies and guidelines requiring procurement and legal representatives to more actively review and participate in all phases of the procurement process, including the requirements determination and contract modification phases.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: All active contracts were modified to contain proper clauses related to contractor supervision.

    Recommendation: To make SBA automated systems more useful to program and field offices and to strengthen IRM activities, the Acting Administrator, SBA, should insert provisions in current and new contracts to comply with federal regulations covering personal services contracts. These provisions should require contractors to supervise their own personnel.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An A-76 study was prepared for SBA/OIRM by a contractor. The study, reviewed by SBA, resulted in changes to existing contracting procedures. Now, all contracts are required to have detailed task orders that set forth cost estimates, time frames, and specifications for contract deliverables.

    Recommendation: To make SBA automated systems more useful to program and field offices and to strengthen IRM activities, the Acting Administrator, SBA, should strengthen contracting procedures for software development, operations, and general programming and technical support contracts to allow SBA to adequately monitor contractor performance. At a minimum, such procedures should require contract managers to use detailed statements of work or written task orders that set forth cost estimates, time frames, and specifications for contract deliverables.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 1987, SBA issued an intermediate plan governing its planning and related IRM activities. In addition, a contract for a requirements definition and the development of a strategy for meeting future information requirements is currently underway. SBA also drafted policies and procedures governing the development and submission of long-range planning documents by field offices.

    Recommendation: To make SBA automated systems more useful to program and field offices and to strengthen IRM activities, the Acting Administrator, SBA, should establish a comprehensive planning process for information resources. It should require program and field offices to identify information requirements, including the potential costs and benefits. The resulting plan, based on consolidated, SBA-wide requirements, should establish objectives, strategies, and priorities for meeting the information requirements. Top management should be actively involved in reviewing and approving the plan.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SBA issued SOP 2031, Funding and Cost Reimbursement for Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Services. SOP formalizes the process of including user participation in the ADP systems development life cycle.

    Recommendation: To make SBA automated systems more useful to program and field offices and to strengthen IRM activities, the Acting Administrator, SBA, should implement policies and procedures to require user participation during the design, review, and operation of automated systems. These procedures should ensure that user needs are addressed during the design stages, and system effectiveness is evaluated through regular post-implementation reviews after the system becomes operational.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Assistant Inspector General in Charge of Audits is aware of the limited resources dedicated to the coverage of SBA IRM activities. The Inspector General does not plan to acquire additional ADP auditing personnel.

    Recommendation: To make SBA automated systems more useful to program and field offices and to strengthen IRM activities, the Acting Administrator, SBA, should provide the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) with the resources needed to place more emphasis on reviews of IRM activities, including reviews of general and application controls of automated systems under development and in operation.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

 

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