Pesticides:

Information Systems Improvements Essential for EPA's Reregistration Efforts

IMTEC-93-5: Published: Nov 23, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) pesticide reregistration information systems, focusing on: (1) how EPA uses automated information systems to provide tracking and analysis information for pesticide reregistration; and (2) whether changes are needed to support its pesticide reregistration information needs.

GAO found that: (1) EPA has spent more than $14 million for pesticide reregistration information system improvements; (2) EPA management problems include inadequate systems planning and poor data management; (3) due to an overload of reregistration information and time constraints, EPA adopted a rapid strategy for developing its new reregistration systems; (4) EPA developed new systems before it established program management and systems data requirements; (5) the lack of data management procedures jeopardized the consistency, accuracy, and completeness of information in the system; (6) the lack of data definition standards made information integration and sharing difficult; (7) the new systems did not meet users' needs for automated pesticide information monitoring functions; and (8) compiling information about pesticides undergoing reregistration remained difficult, labor intensive, and time-consuming.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPP agreed that conformance with guidance and accepted practices was important, and stated that it was moving toward compliance. OPP is integrating office systems in its Office of Pesticides Umbrella System (OPUS), and stated that it would follow appropriate agency guidance. High-level functional and data requirements were defined in the OPUS Mission Needs Statement, which also included an initial system concept. In addition, OPP has done an Options and Cost/Benefit Analysis of two alternatives. However, while the OPUS Project Management Plan specifies that the development will require detailed analyses of functional and data requirements, these have not been completed. OPP believes that the documents it has completed satisfy the system documentation requirements and has proceeded with system development, with some modules already complete. Accepted systems development practices, however, require the documentation of detailed data and functional requirements prior to software development.

    Recommendation: Given the central role that information management plays in ensuring the effective and efficient reregistration of pesticides, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances to strengthen the Office of Pesticide Programs' (OPP) conformance with federal guidance and generally accepted practices for automated systems development so that OPP information systems are consistently planned, developed, and enhanced. As part of this effort, OPP should ensure that the pesticide information needs of all users involved in administering and managing the EPA pesticide reregistration process are defined and linked to an overall program management plan.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPP agreed with this recommendation. In its initial response to the report, OPP stated that it was addressing data integrity issues by identifying problem areas and managing information for maximum feasible reliability. Specifically, OPP has developed structures and standards for electronic submission and dissemination of full pesticide label content, and for submission of supporting data. In addition, OPP has implemented a data dictionary for its LAN-based systems. However, there are no activities to address known data integrity problems in existing systems. OPP hopes that, as systems are integrated and data become more available, data quality will improve. However, OPP still needs to establish data management policies that directly address OPP systems' data integrity problems to ensure integrity in its databases. OPP believes that actions taken to date satisfy the recommendation.

    Recommendation: Given the central role that information management plays in ensuring the effective and efficient reregistration of pesticides, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances to establish data management policies and implement a plan with milestones for resolving OPP systems' data integrity problems.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPP agreed that conformance with guidance and accepted practices was important, and stated that it was moving toward compliance. OPP is integrating office systems in OPUS, and stated that it would follow appropriate agency guidance. High-level functional and data requirements were defined in the OPUS Mission Needs Statement, which also includes an initial system concept. In addition, OPP has done an Options and Cost/Benefit Analysis of two alternatives. However, while the OPUS Project Management Plan specifies that development will require detailed analyses of functional and data requirements, these have not been completed. OPP believes that the documents it has completed satisfy the system documentation requirements and has proceeded with system development, with some modules already complete. Accepted systems development practices, however, require the documentation of detailed data and functional requirements prior to software development.

    Recommendation: Given the central role that information management plays in ensuring the effective and efficient reregistration of pesticides, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances to, as OPP moves towards systems integration activities, ensure that requirements analyses, feasibility studies, and cost/benefit analyses are conducted to support OPP automated systems solutions.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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