Interstate Child Support Enforcement:

Computer Network Contract Not Ready To Be Awarded

IMTEC-92-8: Published: Oct 23, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 23, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Office of Child Support Enforcement's (OCSE) planned procurement of the Child Support Enforcement Network (CSENET), a nationwide telecommunications network to monitor uncollected child support payments, focusing on whether: (1) CSENET is the most cost-effective solution for increasing collections and improving the interstate child support enforcement program; and (2) OCSE has followed sound systems development principles in developing CSENET.

GAO found that: (1) OCSE planned to award a contract for CSENET design, development, and implementation in October 1991, but cannot do so because it failed to adequately follow sound systems development principles; (2) OCSE has not demonstrated that CSENET is the most feasible and effective automated approach for increasing interstate collections and improving the child support enforcement program; (3) CSENET will have minimal impact on increasing interstate collections because it will not provide the additional information to help locate an absent parent; and (4) OCSE has not developed the accurate work-load information to define automation capacity and performance requirements, adequately involved system users in CSENET planning, or defined technical requirements and provided the states with guidance on the interface with state systems and CSENET limitations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department did not agree with the recommendation. The Department stated that it had reviewed the documentation supporting the procurement and found that this documentation met federal requirements. This recommendation was included in the last annual report on open recommendations and is now being closed because HHS does not intend to implement it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should not proceed with contract award without a comprehensive analysis of alternatives according to federal guidelines. This should include the identification of other viable alternatives that meet the agency's requirements for increasing interstate child support collections and the determination of the most advantageous alternative based on a comparison of validated costs and benefits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department agreed with the recommendation. It established a steering committee, consisting of state child support directors, to ensure active user involvement throughout the implementation of the system. This committee is also to develop plans to address other issues such as the reconciliation of interstate cases.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that: (1) users are involved throughout the design and implementation of an automated nationwide child support enforcement system; and (2) a comprehensive plan to rectify problems associated with the selected alternative, such as case reconciliation, be developed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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