Electronic Government:

Potential Exists for Enhancing Collaboration on Four Initiatives

GAO-04-6: Published: Oct 10, 2003. Publicly Released: Nov 10, 2003.

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Linda D. Koontz
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In accordance with the President's management agenda, the Office of Management and Budget has sponsored initiatives to promote expansion of electronic government--the use of information technology, particularly Web-based Internet applications, to enhance government services. Each initiative demands a high degree of collaboration among organizations. For four of these initiatives, GAO was asked to determine, among other things, their implementation progress and the extent of collaboration among agencies and other parties involved.

All four of the e-government initiatives that GAO reviewed have made progress in meeting the objectives and milestones of their early phases. Two of the initiatives have established Web portals--www.geodata.gov for the Geospatial One-Stop initiative and www.BusinessLaw.gov for the Business Gateway. The projects face additional challenging tasks, such as e-Payroll's objective of establishing governmentwide payroll processing standards and Geospatial One-Stop's goal of compiling a comprehensive inventory of geospatial data holdings. All four initiatives have taken steps to promote collaboration with their partner agencies, but none has been fully effective in involving all important stakeholders. For example, for the e-Payroll initiative, the Office of Personnel Management has taken steps to promote close collaboration with its four designated e-Payroll providers, but has not addressed the concerns of a key stakeholder that will be required to make changes to its payroll processes and policies. For Geospatial One-Stop, Interior has established a board of directors with broad representation, but has not taken steps to ensure that key stakeholders at the state and local levels are involved in the initiative. For the Integrated Acquisition Environment initiative, the General Services Administration is using a variety of tools to promote collaboration, but has not involved partner agencies' chief financial officers (CFOs). Finally, for the Business Gateway, the Small Business Administration has not taken key steps to facilitate effective collaboration with its partners and stakeholders, such as establishing a collaborative decision-making process and reaching formal agreements on partner roles and responsibilities. All four initiatives have faced short time frames to accomplish their major tasks, so that competing priorities have sometimes hindered full collaboration. However, without effective collaboration on the tasks that remain to be completed, these initiatives may be at risk of not fully achieving their objectives or the broader goals of the President's management agenda.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a review and feedback process in place to address concerns raised by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as a collaborative process to develop governmentwide payroll standards. OPM reports that it has been engaged in extensive meetings, communications, and collaboration with VA. It has also been conducting monthly meetings with the Office of Management and Budget and VA to review the status of VA's migration to an E-Payroll standard system and to provide the participants with an opportunity to identify issues that require resolution from an initiative perspective. In addition, OPM reports that VA staff members are participating in the e-Payroll Standardization Team, which develops governmentwide payroll standards.

    Recommendation: To enhance the effectiveness of collaboration as a tool for the four e-government initiatives to use in achieving their goals, the Director of OPM should (1) institute a review and feedback process with VA to ensure that its concerns are reviewed and addressed before decisions are made that could have a policy or resource impact on agency payroll operations, and (2) ensure that a collaborative process is in place for development of governmentwide payroll standards.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, DOI has developed and implemented the Geospatial One-Stop Outreach Plan. Specifically, the plan describes the activities the GOS will carry out to communicate with and reach out to its stakeholders, state and local governments, and senior officials.

    Recommendation: To enhance the effectiveness of collaboration as a tool for the four e-government initiatives to use in achieving their goals, the Secretary of the Interior should establish formal agreements with federal agency partners to clarify collaborative relationships and develop an outreach plan for the Geospatial One-Stop initiative that includes specific tasks for contacting and interacting with a wider range of state and local government Geographic Information System officials to facilitate and explain the benefits of broad participation in the initiative and promote the use of federal geospatial data standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA concurred with GAO's recommendation and in response has modified the structure of its working groups to include a CFO Council member who represents CFOs from participating agencies.

    Recommendation: To enhance the effectiveness of collaboration as a tool for the four e-government initiatives to use in achieving their goals, the Administrator, GSA, should modify the structure of its working groups and other communication mechanisms for the Integrated Acquisition Environment initiative to fully include the CFOs of partner agencies and better ensure that agreed-upon partner resource contributions are made.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SBA has taken steps to address each of the components of GAO's recommendation. For example, SBA has established multi-agency Governance and Advisory Boards and Working Groups, with regularly scheduled and documented meetings, to better define roles and responsibilities and enhance communication and outreach mechanisms. SBA is also in the process of finalizing memoranda of understanding with 39 agency stakeholders and partners to establish formal agreements that will better define their roles and responsibilities. In addition, through its Governance and Advisory Boards, initiative participants developed a funding allocation model that the Governance Board reviewed and accepted. Finally, to enhance project wide communication and outreach mechanisms, SBA has documented and implemented a communication strategy, developed a standardized reporting mechanism to formally and regularly provide meeting minutes and status updates to initiative participants. SBA has also implemented a Business Gateway collaboration web site to help ensure that participants have access to all available project information.

    Recommendation: To enhance the effectiveness of collaboration as a tool for the four e-government initiatives to use in achieving their goals, the Administrator, SBA, should establish a more collaborative management structure for the Business Gateway initiative by defining roles and responsibilities, establishing formal collaboration agreements with federal agency partners, developing a shared funding strategy, and implementing projectwide communication and outreach mechanisms to ensure that key decision makers at partner agencies are kept informed and involved in the management of the project.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration


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