GAO Criticizes HUD IT Modernization Efforts

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has not yet met requirements to justify appropriated funds, nor demonstrated management capabilities to complete eight in-progress projects.
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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must better clarify its expenditure plan for an ambitious IT modernization effort to justify the funds appropriated for it, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

HUD, which like many government agencies, is working to modernize its IT systems, also has not fully proved it currently has the management capabilities to undertake a series of eight modernization projects currently in progress, according to a recently published report by the government watchdog agency.

The GAO found that each of the projects in the plan varied in degree to which they described capabilities, expected benefits, estimated costs, and key milestones, according to the report. The agency was asked to assess how HUD's modernization plan satisfied statutory requirements for its funding.

In terms of project management, HUD has not yet shown the plan is compliant with the agency's enterprise architecture, nor that it's being managed with applicable lifecycle management policies, according to the GAO.

The plan also isn't yet subject to HUD's capital planning and control requirements, nor supported by a project office sufficiently staffed for the job, according to the report.

The agency can't be blamed entirely for some of the capital planning and financial-management problems cited in the report. Like many federal CIOs, HUD CIO Jerry Williams lacks central budget authority over all of the agency's IT spending. This creates obstacles to effective capital planning that are in some ways beyond his control.

For its part, HUD attributed insufficiencies to its interpretations of statutory requirements and current unavailability of project documentation that it will release in future versions of its modernization plan.

HUD already is working on strengthening project-management capability for its IT modernization project, although the GAO said these plans, too, are a work in progress.

The agency is currently redefining its enterprise architecture around core business functions, though it has not begun development of it, nor has it established a date for when the new architecture will be available.

HUD also has created a conceptual construct for a new investment and lifecycle management framework, but is still working on the policies and process guidance needed "to understand and consistently implement it," according to the GAO.

The GAO has made two key recommendations to HUD to help the agency fulfill statutory requirements, and the agency has agreed with them, according to the report.

HUD should ensure that future spending plans fully satisfy all statutory conditions or, if they don't, disclose why conditions aren't being met along with any associated project risks and mitigation plans, according to the report.

The agency also should describe the status of its efforts to institutionalize key modernization-management controls that can help it solve some of its current project-management challenges, the GAO recommended.