Veterans Affairs IRM:

Stronger Role Needed for Chief Information Resources Officer

IMTEC-91-51BR: Published: Jul 24, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 3, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) reviewed the status of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) plan for reorganizing its Office of Information Resources Management (IRM); (2) determined the effects of the reorganization on automatic data processing (ADP) acquisition skills; (3) evaluated whether the reorganization was consistent with legal guidelines; and (4) evaluated the involvement of the chief information resources officer (CIRO) in IRM planning, budgeting, and ADP acquisition activities.

GAO found that: (1) the reorganization has left VA with a fragmented IRM planning and budgeting process which does not give CIRO the authority to manage the development of VA-wide information technology and relies on each component to formulate its own IRM plans and budgets; (2) CIRO lacked adequate internal controls over the VA acquisition approval process for information resources, resulting in IRM acquisitions over $50,000 not being submitted for approval and the acquisition of duplicate ADP systems; (3) the reorganization did not provide a solid foundation for IRM, resulting in less responsibilities for the IRM office and a weakened CIRO; (4) since major VA components continue to operate autonomously, its information exchange and system integration deficiencies between the components remained largely unresolved; and (5) since VA reorganization efforts failed to unify IRM, VA actions may not meet the legal guidelines which provide for CIRO management of information resources.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 1993, VA agreed to redirect its modernization project and to improve oversight and overall coordination of all of its IRM projects, including strengthening the role of the CIRO. Specific plans for implementing the agreement are in the earliest stages. Completion dates have not yet been determined. Therefore, the extent to which the June 1993 agreement fully addresses this recommendation is not yet known. In July 1994 GAO updated VA's progress to implement the June 1993 agreement. GAO found that VA: (1) has no plan that addresses how the modernization program will be redirected or how VA will improve oversight and overall coordination; and (2) has not substantially changed the oversight role of the CIRO and does not plan to expand the role. Although VA's current and past Secretary have repeatedly agreed to strengthen CIRO oversight, VA's actions to date have not substantially changed or improved the CIRO role. Therefore, GAO believes this recommendation should be closed.

    Recommendation: To provide for using strong VA-wide management of information technology, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop a departmentwide IRM strategy linked to department goals and objectives. This strategy should address the full spectrum of IRM activities identified in the Paperwork Reduction Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. As a part of this strategy, the Secretary should expand the role of CIRO to include responsibility and authority for these IRM activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 1993, VA agreed to redirect one of its largest IRM projects at the Veterans Benefits Administration. As part of this redirection, VA stated that CIRO oversight would be strengthened for all major IRM projects. VA stated specifically that CIRO would develop and use criteria to prioritize, approve, and evaluate major IRM projects. The date of completion of these efforts has not yet been determined. A current VA review found that the CIRO has not developed new criteria to prioritize, approve, and evaluate major IRM projects. Additionally, VA has not reported its acquisition process as a material internal control weakness. On the basis of VA's actions and the length of time this recommendation has been open, GAO believes it should now be closed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should report inadequate control over ADP acquisitions as a material internal control weakness under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs


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