Information Resources:

Management Commitment Needed to Meet Information Challenges

IMTEC-90-27: Published: Apr 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1990.

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GAO assessed the effectiveness of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) information resources management (IRM) in supporting its mission, focusing on central VA IRM management practices and VA information needs.

GAO found that: (1) VA information systems did not readily provide management with data to effectively assess, monitor, and manage its expensive programs, because of antiquated, inefficient, and nonintegrated automated systems; (2) VA managers could not easily obtain information on performance indicators to monitor and analyze VA health care; (3) VA had significant problems in recruiting and retaining nurses and could not easily get information to analyze attrition or retention data, resulting in outdated reports to congressional committees; (4) VA central office managers had no information to determine whether medical centers appropriately verified physicians' credentials; (5) VA program benefit information was not formatted to allow managers to effectively monitor benefit processing activities or answer congressional questions; (6) VA lacked reliable cost information that would enable it to determine whether VA effectively used its resources to administer health care; and (7) the VA system includes redundant information and requires labor-intensive manual processing, creating errors that delay service. GAO also found that: (1) VA lacked a long-term agency planning process to support its mission; (2) VA had neither fully developed nor effectively implemented IRM policies; and (3) major VA components operated autonomously, thereby hindering effective implementation of the IRM program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation has been overtaken by events. Specifically, VA reorganized and placed departmentwide information resources responsibilities under the Assistant Secretary for Finance and Information Resources Management. This change was made partly due to the CFO Act. Subsequent audits have covered the current IRM structure and include more relevant recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should provide the commitment and resources needed to improve VA IRM. This would include ensuring that VA top managers' information needs are identified and that they support the goals and objectives of VA long-range plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA has established a departmentwide IRM Steering Committee to help determine VA information and technology needs. It also has recently completed a departmentwide architecture that defines some of its requirements across VA components.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should provide the commitment and resources needed to improve VA IRM. This would include developing a working group from the major IRM and program components and assigning a full-time project manager to analyze the information requirements for the VA mission. This would entail working with the components to identify what information: (1) exists and where it resides; (2) needs to be shared; and (3) needs to be created.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs


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