The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spends billions of dollars each year on IT, but a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that the agency did not get the approval of its chief information officer (CIO) for many IT contract awards from fiscal year (FY) 2021.
According to Federal laws and guidance, the VA CIO should be fully accountable for IT acquisition and management decisions. However, in a review of 26 IT contracts in FY2021, GAO found that 14 did not have CIO approval. Of those, 13 were managed by offices that don’t specialize in IT.
“According to VA officials, their contracting systems lack an automated control that would remind contracting officers of CIO review and approval requirements,” the report says. “Without an automated check or control to ensure contracting officer compliance, it is likely that there will continue to be IT procurements that will not be routed for CIO review, particularly for non-IT contracting offices.”
“The lack of visibility into the procurement of much of VA’s IT assets and activities constrained the CIO’s opportunity to provide input on current and planned IT acquisitions,” it adds. “This, in turn, could result in awarding contracts that are duplicative or poorly conceived.”
GAO made one recommendation to the VA, which is to implement automated controls to ensure the CIO reviews all IT procurements. Specifically, the government watchdog wants the CIO and chief acquisition officer to implement those controls so that IT and IT-related assets are appropriately identified for VA’s FITARA approval process.
VA agreed with the recommendation, and said it will provide an action plan to GAO within the required 180-day period. One possible action the VA is considering is to conduct an internal review of the department’s FITARA processes.
The agency said it also may gather and analyze data from the Federal Procurement Data System to determine if FITARA compliance was completed, and then update FITARA processes as appropriate. Finally, it said it’s also considering having the CIO and chief acquisition officer propose a strategy together to implement the automated controls.
However, the VA said it still needs to collaborate with the appropriate stakeholders to figure out timelines and the feasibility of the possible action plan.