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Monday, November 16, 2009

DHS financial management systems in disarray, IG says

The Homeland Security Department still has fragmented financial management systems that can't share data effectively, according to the department's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office.

DHS is working on a departmentwide process, called Transformation and Systems Consolidation (TASC), that would integrate its financial systems, currently spread across 22 agencies. But Kay Daly, director of financial management and assurance issues at GAO, said the department hasn't even identified which business processes need to be integrated into TASC.

The DHS IG, meanwhile, says many of the department's existing financial systems suffer from security flaws and an inability to communicate. "Systems are fragmented, do not share data, and over the years they have developed security flaws," said James Taylor, the department's deputy inspector general, at an Oct. 29 hearing of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on management, investigations and oversight.

Problems also plague financial systems at many agencies within DHS. The Coast Guard, for example, doesn't have policies in place for patching and upgrading its systems, or for disaster recovery; the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn't maintain audit logs, which could help it track down the source of an intrusion.

Peggy Sherry, the department's acting chief financial officer, said DHS has established a working group — composed of managers from headquarters and individual DHS agencies — to work on consolidating financial systems. Sherry said her office also is consulting other departments to find out how they manage financial systems.

The department is planning to buy a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software package to integrate its financial systems.

Sherry said DHS expects to sign a contract between January and March. It will likely be a cost-plus contract. Several lawmakers at the hearing urged the department to consider a fixed-price contract, but Sherry said that would make it more difficult to buy the necessary software.

Lawmakers seemed impatient with the department's longstanding inability to integrate its financial systems and its other management processes. GAO and the IG issued a number of reports on financial management at DHS over the last few years; and many of their recommendations still have yet to be implemented.

At the Coast Guard, for example, 21 of the 22 conclusions in the most recent IG report were repeated from a previous report. GAO says none of its recommendations for the department have been fully implemented.

-Gregg Carlstrom, FederalTimes.com

Financial Management Systems: DHS Faces Challenges to Successfully Consolidate Its Existing Disparate Systems.
GAO-10-210T, October 29
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10210thigh.pdf

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