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7/1/2010
11:32 AM
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VA IT Project In Jeopardy

A failed $127 million appointment-scheduling application will only succeed in its second iteration if the Veterans Administration addresses past management problems, say auditors.

A second attempt to build an outpatient-scheduling application at the Veterans Administration could fail if officials don't address poor management of the project that plagued its first iteration, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

The VA already spent $127 million over nine years to build a system that has not worked due to a number of software defects that neither the VA nor the contractor on the project could solve, according to the report, released last month.

The agency is "essentially starting over" to rebuild the system, but must address some of the problems that went wrong the first time.

Those problems included not being able to benefit from a competitive bidding process by failing to plan the acquisition of services and products ahead of building the application, according to the report.

The VA also did not perform tests of the application concurrently or follow guidance for how the application should have performed, which resulted in the application not achieving its development goals.

Another problem that plagued the project was that the VA did not provide reliable project progress and status reports, or effectively identify and communicate project risks. The latter occurred because staff executing the project were afraid of raising issues to the IT department's leadership at the time, according to the report.

Additionally, the administration's oversight boards did not take appropriate action to put the project back on course, even though it knew there were problems with it on many levels, according to the GAO.

There is a good chance the VA will be more successful with the application the second time around, however.

The leadership responsible for not implementing the first application is no longer in place at the agency, and new CIO Roger Baker has in the last year or so revamped the way the VA manages IT projects. In fact, Baker was the one who decided to nix the first scheduling system.

A letter in response to the report signed by VA chief of staff John R. Gingrich said the agency generally agreed with the GAO's assessment of the problems with the project's first implementation and plans to address them so they don't happen again.

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