In an attempt to update the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) information technology (IT) programs, a lack of management and oversight have ended up costing the VA millions of dollars and the program was not the return on investment that was expected.
VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that Enterprise Operations, which is part of VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) spent more than $2 million on a “cloud brokerage service contract.” For context, this program is basically a cloud management service and the end goal was “improving the quality of health care and benefits services for veterans and their families.”
The OIG found that $2 million was spent on this contract and total project costs were over $5 million. The cost of the project isn’t really the point, but rather that the contract “provided limited brokerage functionality and that VA’s actions did not ensure adequate system performance or an adequate return on investment…and that limited capability prevented it from being used in a production environment.” So what happened? Shouldn’t there have been management in place to ensure that the product would be worth the cost and fit the needs of the VA?
OIG found that the fault lied in a “lack of executive oversight and ineffective management.” In short, management dropped the ball. The OIG stated “the VA project manager did not ensure that formal testing and acceptance were conducted on project deliverables as required by the contract” and additionally “the project manager could not provide any evidence of testing of contract deliverables or whether the product met minimum requirements.” Project managers seemed to provide very little oversight of the project in general, or to take responsibility for all that the project entailed. The OIG further stated “project management was not performed in accordance with established procedures, and the Project Management Accountability System was not used to hold project managers accountable for meeting schedule, cost, and performance goals on the project.”
While $5 million is not a huge amount compared to the VA budget as a whole, the moral of this story is that management was botched and accountability measures skipped. The VA thus ended up with a cloud management system that does not fit its needs. Time and resources were wasted in the name of taking shortcuts when that money could have gone towards a project that equips the VA to best do its job.
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