oversight

Information Resources: Management Commitment Needed to Meet Information Challenges

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-04-19.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                                                                                                       .

                          -.--         United   States       General         Accounting    Office


 GAO                                   Report tlo the Secretary of Veterans
                                       Affairs


                                                                                                      -.-_-.       _
April 1990
                                       INFoRMATION                                                                     -
                                       RESOURCES
                                   Management
                                   Commitment Needed
                                   to Meet Information
                                   Challenges




                  -__   .._-__-..-.”      __    - __.. -..-- - -- ..-----..--.-_---.-.    .-.___I_-   -._   --__
GAO/IMTEC-90-27
                  united states
                  General AccountingOf&e
                  Waehington, D.C. 20648

                  Information Management and
                  Technology Division

                  B-238124

                  April 19,199O

                  The Honorable Edward J. Derwinski
                  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs

                  Dear Mr. Secretary:

                  This report presents the results of our review of the Department of Vet-
                  erans Affairs’ (VA) information resources management (EM) and repre-
                  sents a segment of an ongoing general management review. Our
                  objective was to assess the effectiveness of VA'S information resources in
                  supporting its mission. We focused on central IRMmanagement practices
                  and departmentwide information needs. In working with the Assistant
                  Secretary for Information Resources Management, we provided detailed
                  briefii    throughout our review and assess& VA'S current initiatives to
                  (1) reorganize its IRMoffice, (2) develop an JRMplanning process, and (3)
                  consider a departmentwide information system. See appendix I for our
                  objective, scope, and methodology.

                  As part of the general management review, our Human Resources Divi-
                  sion is working with your office and has provided briefings on a depart-
                  mentwide strategic planning framework. The results of these briefings
                  will be documented and reported in the near future. In addition, our
                  Accounting and Financial Management Division is analyzing VA'S finan-
                  cial management activities and is working closely with the Assistant
                  Secretary for Pinance and Planning. Other reviews covering manage-
                  ment issues, such as human resources, may be initiated at a later date.


                      top managers do not have information readily available to assess the
Resultsin Brief   VA
                  quality of health care or the effectiveness of services provided to veter-
                  ans. VA information is contained in over 160 fragmented automated sys-
                  tems and multiple, ad hoc manual systems. The information in these
                  systems is not efficiently collected nor can it be easily accessed by VA
                  officials. Further, information is duplicated throughout the systems,
                  cannot be effectively integrated and shared, and often is incomplete,
                  inaccurate, or late. As a result, IRMweaknesses have hindered VA'S abil-
                  ity to effectively manage programs and have contributed to service
                  delays.

                  VA  does not have a structured approach to systematically plan, priori-
                  tize, and implement all aspects of its near- and long-term information
                  needs. Consequently, the agency can not effectively evaluate its own
                      lb288124




                      performance and fix accou
                      medical, benefits, and natic
                      improve technology, but th
                      of an integrated VA IRM proI
                      oped or implemented polici
                      sharing.
                      VArecognizesthat significa
                      services to veterans and hz
                      streamlining its central nw
                      would include strategic IRM
                      require management’scant
                      all IRMand program officia

                      On March 16,1989, VA ~8s
E%ack$round           better serving our nation’s
                      240,000 peode, has a budg
                      major program component2
                      Services and ResearchAdn
                      nation’s largest health care
                      tion, providing over $16 bil
                      education benefits and ove:
                      (3) National Cemetery Syst
                      cemeteries, as well as h&..
                      cemeteries.

                      a’s use of inf-          resour
                      sion. It relies on many automa
                      ans and their dependentsw’
                      1$it&VAphLtE3toSpendabc
                      and in addition is planning
                      programs costing over a bil
                      1004.

                      We found that information
Information Systems   ment with the data needed
Do Not Readily        billion dollar programs. Wk
Provide NeededData    ~~wy’~~;m~;
                      systems are not integrated,
                      ual processingwhich is lab
    5238124




    prone. Consequently, VA executives and program managers can not eas-
    ily and readily get information on critical issues such as quality of
    health care, efficiency of benefit services, and operational costs.
    Specifically,

.   VAtop managers can not readily obtain the information necessary to
  determine the quality of health care provided to veterans. Several sys-
  tems maintain medical information; however, they do not capture key
  data contained on physician’s records. For example, automated systems
  do not include a patient’s diagnosis at admission or discharge, or the
  specific cause of death. Additionally, automated information that is con-
  tained locally at medical centers can not easily or promptly be accessed
  by central office. According to an Acting Chief Medical Director, it is a
  very difficult and time-consuming process to determine the quality of
  health care because local systems are decentralized and do not automati-
  cally exchange data. As a result, VA top managers can not easily obtain
  information to develop nationwide performance indicators to monitor
  and analyze the health care given.’
. VA has significant problems recruiting and retaining nurses, but it can
  not easily get information to analyze attrition or retention trend data. It
  must access five different automated systems and manually compile the
  results in submitting resource requirements to Congress. Consequently,
  nursing statistics reported to congressional committees may be outdated
  by more than a year.
. VA central office managers do not have information readily available to
  determine if medical centers appropriately verify physicians’ creden-
  tials. This information is compiled and maintained by local VA medical
  centers; however, it is not easily accessible by central office officials. We
  reported2 that VA was not effectively monitoring the credentialing of
  physicians. After examining 207 case files of physicians hired by VA
  between 1986 and 1988, we found that only 102 verifications were made
  and properly documented. The failure to verify every applicant’s license
  and document this verification violates VA policy. Thus, VA can not guar-
  antee that all its physicians are properly licensed and certified. Further,
  in December 1989, VA identified the credentialing of physicians as a
  material weakness in its Financial Integrity Act reporL3

    ‘In its report, Interim Report to the Chief Medical Director, prepared by the Strategic Information
    Systems Planning Committee, Apr. 5,1989, VA xwogkes that limited efforts have been made using
    automation to monitor the health care outcome of patients.
    %nprovements Needed in Procedures to Assure Physicians are Qualified (GAO/HRDW-77.          Aug.
    1989).
    3Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act, Public Law 97-266, Sept. 8,1982.



    Page 3                           GAO-27               II&l Chdlenjjea at Dept. of Veterans Affairs
                                                                                                                  ~~
                         .   VA’Scentral office program managers have access to benefit information;
                           however, it is not in a useful format to allow managers to effectively
                           monitor benefit processing activities or readily answer questions from
                           Congress. According to the Director, Compensation and Pension, VA col-
                           lects information on overall timeliness of services; however, these data
                           are not broken out among various program functions, such as the timeli-
                           ness of the appeals process versus that of adjudication. As a result, VA
                           can not effectively identify and monitor individual program perform-
                           ance. Further, another program manager indicated that information is
                           received in a “piecemeal” fashion making it difficult to readily answer
                           questions from Congress and others on regional office activities.
                         9 VA lacks reliable cost information. For example, it does not know the
                           actual costs of treating patients for specific illnesse~,~ nor does it know
                           the relative cost of obtaining long-term care services through different
                           nursing home options6 As such, VA does not readily know if it is effec-
                           tively using its resources to administer health care. This type of infor-
                           mation is also important to Congress in making funding decisions and
                           overseeing services provided to veterans-e specially with today’s
                           budget constraints.

                             These information weaknesses exist because VA’S (1) departmentwide
                             management information does not readily provide managers the data
                             necessary to effectively monitor programs, (2) automated systems do
                             not effectively integrate and share data, and (3) systems are redundant
                             and require intensive manual processing.


Management Information       VA program and management information is contained in over 160 auto-
                             mated systems and multiple manual systems located throughout the
System                       country. Many of these systems provide specific information for individ-
                             ual programs. For example, there are several systems that collect per-
                             sonnel, medical, and benefits information. While these systems support
                             individual program activities, they do not provide comprehensive and
                             consistent departmentwide information for the agency.




                             41mproving Operations of Federal Departmenta and Agencies (GAO/OP-S%l, Mar. 1989).

                             %‘eterarrr Affairs Issues (GAO/OCG-S%14TR, Nov. 19SS).



                             Page 4                         GAO/RUTEGWiV       IPM Ohalb@m at Dept. of Veterans AfUr
                          B!238124




                          Departmentwide information is maintained in an automated manage-
                          ment information system called AME!?However, this system was devel-
                          oped in the 1960s is antiquated, and uses sequential (batch) processing,
                          which is much slower, harder to maintain, and less efficient compared to
                          current technology. AMIScollects a variety of information contained in
                          many of the program specific systems including personnel, accounting,
                          medical patient and veterans’ benefit data. This information is obtained
                          from (1) computer files produced automatically, (2) multiple systems
                          that are not compatible and do not automatically exchange data, and (3)
                          manually developing and collecting data. Consequently, VA field (medical
                          centers and regional offices) and headquarters staff must manually code
                          and enter data, taking 6 to 8 weeks to collect and process information
                          before VA management obtains a report. Further, the system has limited
                          capabilities to provide information other than standard reports. Should
                          corrections or additional information be needed, it normally takes 3
                          months to change the system. And, finally, because of the labor inten-
                          sive coding required, field staff frequently input erroneous data and do
                          not keep the system up-to-date.

                          An effective departmentwide management information system would
                          provide data necessary to address critical mission-related issues. Such a
                          system would give VA managers prompt, reliable, complete, and consis-
                          tent data to monitor and assess program performance pertaining to the
                          quality and efficiency of services delivered to veterans. For example,
                          the Assistant Secretary for Finance and Planning stated that VA needs
                          information to answer questions concerning operational matters, such as
                          how much money is spent on AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syn-
                          drome). However, VA does not have an effective management informa-
                          tion system to collect and compile data scattered in many systems across
                          the country.


Ineffective Integration   VA’S systems are incompatible and cannot readily exchange data among
                          its major components and with external agencies, such as the Depart-
                          ment of Defense. To ilhrstrate, a medical examination is required when a
                          veteran applies for disability payments. This involves a paper-intensive
                          process-exchanging     records between VA’S benefits and medical compo-
                          nent. Further, VA has to wait on average 2 months to obtain Defense
                          records documenting military service. According to VA officials, a 2- or 3-

                          %verall management information is collected in AMIS and is widely used by program managers at
                          many levels of the VA as their principal source of work load data and aggregate information on
                          re@onal and national activities.



                          P8geS                           GAO/lMTECN27        lRM chdh#ea     8t Dept. of Vetemna AK&u
                          5238124




                          month delay for a veteran to obtain benefits is not unusual. Because of
                          inefficient automation and other critical factors, such as a reduction in
                          staff and legislative changes concerning program eligibility criteria, the
                          Chief Benefits Director testified that “it now takes an average of 152
                          days to process an original claim for disability compensation.”


System Redundancies and   VA’S systems also contain redundant information and require labor-inten-
                          sive, manual processing. Each VA program relies on a separate auto-
Manual Processing         mated or manual system but requires some of the same basic data-i.e.,
                          the veteran’s name, address, social security number, and length of ser-
                          vice. Maintaining duplicative data is expensive and can also lead to
                          errors that delay service. For example, discrepancies between systems
                          in a veteran’s social security number may take months to correct, delay-
                          ing some of the veteran’s benefit payments. Additionally, the lack of
                          automation has contributed to a backlog of almost 340,000 adjudication
                          claims cases pending in 1989. Performing intensive manual processing
                          and maintaining duplicative information are expensive. VA officials
                          admit that duplication and redundancies are problems but have not
                          measured their extent or cost.

                          To overcome these inefficiencies, VA has initiated multiple automated
                          projects to enhance the timeliness, accuracy, and availability of data7
                          For example, the medical component is automating information on qual-
                          ity of care, and the benefits component is modernizing its labor-intensive
                          benefit process. The components have also identified projects to auto-
                          matically exchange information between medical centers and regional
                          benefit offices. However, several factors may hinder the effective devel-
                          opment and implementation of these initiatives.


                          Significant IRMweaknesses, inadequate management information, and
FactorsHindering          inefficient systems exist because VA has not (1) completed a long-term
EffectiveIRM              departmentwide planning process to guide IFI.Minformation needs, (2)
                          established departmentwide IRM priorities, and (3) established policies to
                          foster data-sharing and systems integration among components. Fur-
                          ther, another factor impeding the development of an efficient and effec-
                          tive IRMprogram is the autonomous nature in which VA’S major
                          components operate. Although individual components continue to


                          ‘In Veterans Administration Information Resources MzuW ement Is Improving   (GAO IMTEC-88-17,
                          Jan. 1988), me noted that the components are stnving to comet IRM deficiencies.



                          Pyte 6                         GAO-27             IBM chdenges     at Dept. of Veterans Affaira
B-228124




improve services through automation, their efforts have not effectively
supported VA as a whole.

As highlighted in our recent symposium,8 the most successful automa-
tion efforts begin with a top manager who has a clear vision of how
information technology can benefit the organization, and a commitment
to making this vision a reality. Without this clear direction and support
from the top, IRMinitiatives tend to degenerate into loose collections of
independ.ent systems. Often these systems are developed by technical
managers who narrowly focus on their individual unit’s needs rather
than the organization’s larger mission and goals.

VA recognizes that the Secretary must clearly define his vision, but the
agency lacks a long-term agency planning process to support its mission,
VA is now developing a framework for the planning process. IRM should
support this long-term vision and planning effort with the necessary
tools and information to enable managers to (1) evaluate VA’S perform-
ance and (2) identify appropriate accountability.

Once VA’S planning efforts establish specific long-term goals and identify
supporting information needs, IRMpriorities need to be determined. VA
has not implemented a process to analyze and prioritize its depart-
mentwide IRM initiatives. Instead, each component is analyzing its own
information needs and defining the essential characteristics of its sys-
tems environment9 . Without established priorities VA does not know
what IRM initiatives are most critical to its mission. As a result, VA has no
guarantee that its limited IRM resources are effectively used to meet
agency-wide needs.

VA has neither fully developed nor effectively implemented IRM policies.
Policies are important to provide overall agency perspective and direc-
tion to information/technology   acquisition, development, and use. Poli-
cies help ensure that separate components develop compatible systems
that share data and are coordinated. Specifically, these policies would
include systems development life-cycle management, ownership of data,


*Met.@ the &vement’s        Technology Challenge (Oct. 4 and 6,1989), provided a forumthatbrought
together toplevel executives responsible for ixnplknenting IRM programs to explore better ways of
using information technology.
Ql’he essential characteristics of a systems environment inch& critical hardware, software, telecom-
munications, and information repository requirements and standards (e.g., data communication pm
tocol standards, programming language standards standard data definitions and software
englneerlng standards).



 Page 7                          GAO/lMTEC8O-27 IBM Chdenges at Dept. of Veterans Affah
                        Egg8124




                        prototyping,*O interconnectivity,*l and interoperability. Although VA has
                        provided some guidance on interconnectivity and interoperability, such
                        as telecommunications and computer operating systems standards, it
                        has not developed comprehensive policies for these and other systems
                        development issues. Also, while VA has issued a policy governing the
                        ownership of data, it has not been effectively implemented. The policy
                        states that data belong to VA, but each component defines and maintains
                        data in individual systems belonging to the component, not the agency.
                        The lack of comprehensive IRMpolicies has contributed to VA'S problems
                        with data redundancies and its piecemeal approach to automation.

                        We also found that VA’S major components operate autonomously,
                        thereby hindering effective implementation of the IRMprogram. The cen-
                        tral IRMoffice and its counterparts in the individual components do not
                        work easily or cohesively together. According to a VA consultant, I‘...
                        independent components care only about their programs and do not see
                        the department as a whole. The real power for IRMdoes not reside with
                        the senior official [Assistant Secretary for IFW], but in each administra-
                        tion [component].” Although the central IRM office is charged with imple-
                        menting policies, reviewing procurements, and giving its counterparts
                        technical support, many key IRMofficials view this support as a burden
                        that does not provide effective service. According to one component
                        official, “confrontation is the norm when dealing with KRM”[the central
                        IRMoffice]. This attitude has hindered VA'S recent actions to improve
                        user services and build a partnership among the various IFM offices.


VA Actions to Improve   improve operations: (1) reorganizing its central office mn4activities to
IRM                     streamline functions and improve coordination, (2) developing a strate
                        gic IRMplanning process13to set priorities, and (3) planning a manage-
                        ment information system to answer critical mission-related questions.


                        l”Protdyping  is an approach to defining system requirements by providing users a working model of
                        the system that can be easily revised baaed on user feedback. Resowwarenotexpendedtobuildthe
                        “Anal” version of the system unti requirements are clearly ur&Woodanddeflnedbasedonuser
                        experience with the prototypes.
                        ‘lrnte~vity         is the ability to link equipment electronically, e.g., to attach to a network and send
                        and receive data
                        121nteropetnbility is the ability of systems to work together, e.g., to send and interpret messages,
                        sharedat&e.tc
                        130n January 26,1990, the SecWary approved the IRM sttategc planning process.



                        Page 8                             GAO-27               UtM w             at Dept. of Veterans Affair0
  B-238124




  We commented to VA officials on these three initiatives. Specifically on
  VA’S first initiative to reorganize, we noted that:

. Given VA’S autonomous and decentralized work environment and the
  controversial climate between the central IRM office and the component
  IRM offices, VA needs a customer liaison office. This office would provide
  an independent mediator to help resolve significant IRM issues, This
  would improve coordination, foster working relationships, and improve
  communication.
. Policy functions and responsibility for defining and controlling VA infor-
  mation resources management requirements should be consolidated and
  elevated within the central office IRM reorganization. The function
  should define system development procedures for VA. The guidance
  should be broad enough to allow components the latitude to build sys-
  tems that meet unique program needs, yet specific enough to ensure that
  information can be shared across the agency. Additionally, VA’S central
  IRM office should initiate post-implementation reviews to learn whether
  individual components follow departmentwide policies.
. Executives from VA’S components should be trained in IRM concepts and
  principles to foster an understanding of the importance and value of
  sharing information across the agency. This would facilitate communica-
  tion between the central IRM office and components to support critical
  decisions in planning, prioritizing, and implementing technology.

  VA’S Assistant Secretary for IRM considered our comments and also circu-
  lated the proposed reorganization, obtaining comments from major com-
  ponents. Based on these comments, VA incorporated our
  recommendations and other suggestions into its approved
  reorganization.

  Regarding VA’S second initiative, to develop a strategic IRM planning pro-
  cess, we commented that initially (1) the process did not include suffi-
  cient input from IRM component officials (such as, the medical and
  benefits offices) and (2) there was no specific guidance from the Secre-
  tary on VA goals. After discussing these comments with us and VA offi-
  cials, the Assistant Secretary for IRM expanded the planning process14to
  ensure that all IRMand program component officials were represented in
  developing the plan. Further, on October 6,1989, the Secretary issued a
  directive to all components expressing the importance of implementing
  an effective IRMprogram. According to the Secretary, (1) IRM planning

   140n October 6,1960, the Se.cretaxy signed a memorandum establishing the framework for a strategic
  IRMplanning,programming,
                        and budgeting          process for the agency.



  Page 9                            GAO/lMTECW27        IBM (Zhdhgm      at Dept. of Veterans Affdns
              E228124




              should support overall agency plans and goals and (2) communication
              and coordination among all VA components are essential and must be
              enhanced.

              VA'S  third initiative, a departmentwide information system for execu-
              tives is conceptually sound and critical to improving agency manage-
              ment. The project is intended to give VA executives and program
              managers easy access to agency information by (1) identifying where
              data resides and assessing information needs, (2) providing the technical
              capabilities required to bridge data gaps scattered throughout the com-
              ponent systems, and (3) replacing manual data input with an updated
              automated process. In addition, the project is designed to begin stan-
              dardizing data elements and definitions, reducing redundant data, and
              facilitating the sharing of information among the agency’s multiple
              systems.

              In briefings with the Assistant Secretary for IRM, we commented that the
              project’s potential benefits may not be realized because key factors have
              hindered initial efforts. First, the Secretary’s long-term vision is needed
              to guide this effort so that departmentwide goals and objectives can be
              translated into information needed to monitor performance and make
              critical decisions. Second, VA must develop an approach that proactively
              involves program officials and IRM managers across the agency. This is
              important because information needs must be defined by the component
              executives and program managers who will use the data to carry out
              their respective oversight and operational responsibilities.

              The Assistant Secretary for IRM agreed with our comments, but, despite
              the lack of departmentwide guidance, felt that the project to develop an
              information management system should proceed. Therefore, his office
              continued briefings and prototype demonstrations to VA officials. While
              the Office of the Secretary agrees with the concept of a departmentwide
              information system for executives, it is not convinced that the proposed
              initiative would identify and provide needed information. Consequently,
              the project has not been fully staffed and has not received funding.


Conclusions   tively manage programs and have contributed to service delays. VAhas
              acted to improve its IRM program, but lasting improvements will require
              conscious change in the organizational culture. This means that the com-
              ponents and the central office must work together to create a climate of
              trust, open communication, and mutual support. Nothing less will serve


              Page 10                  GAO/IMTEC90-27   IBM. Challenge8 at Dept. of Veterans Affairs
                     E228124




                     the veterans’ best interests. This shift in organizational culture reflects
                     the Secretary’s vision and will require every manager’s cooperation and
                     commitment. VA'S information problems cannot be overcome without
                     such a change. For example, to overcome the old pitfall of compartmen-
                     talizing data, VA needs to be proactive in helping its executives under-
                     stand how data sharing across the organization benefits everyone and
                     enables managers to accurately know veterans’ most pressing concerns.
                     If managers keep working to build a partnership and reach consensus,
                     IRM would improve services to veterans.

                     Once its IRM reorganization and long-term IRM planning process are in
                     place, VA can set priorities and assess its information needs. But this fun-
                     damental step is only a beginning: other critical initiatives need to be
                     implemented. A comprehensive analysis of information needed by VA
                     managers is essential to ensure that significant issues facing the agency
                     can be readily identified, assessed, and resolved. By taking the initial
                     steps to improve its departmentwide information resources, VA can build
                     the foundation for data sharing across the agency. In addition, VA needs
                     to follow through on its initiatives in implementing policies, post-imple-
                     mentation reviews, and its customer liaison function to ensure it is effec-
                     tively providing service to its users. The Secretary’s ongoing
                     commitment is needed to ensure that IRM initiatives are effectively pri-
                     oritized, integrated, streamlined, and supportive of VA as a whole.


                     We recommend that the Secretary provide the commitment and
Recommendation       resources needed to improve the agency’s information resources man-
                     agement. This would include

                     ensuring that VA top managers’ information needs are identified and that
                     they support the goals and objectives of the agency’s long-range plans;
                     developing a working group from the major IRM and program compo-
                     nents and assigning a full-time project manager to analyze the informa-
                     tion requirements for VA'S mission. This would entail working with the
                     components to identify what information (1) exists and where it resides,
                     (2) needs to be shared, and (3) needs to be created.


                     We received oral comments from both the Assistant Secretary for IRM
Agency Commentsand   and the Office of the Secretary. The Assistant Secretary for IRM agreed
Our Evaluation       with the report’s contents and has acted upon recommendations we pro-
                     vided during our review. Additionally, the Assistant Secretary for IRM



                     Page 11                  GAO/lMTEG9O-27 IBM Challenges   at Dept. of Veterana Af’fah
told us that this report helped him gain a broad perspective of the          IRM
challenges facing VA.

The Office of the Secretary generally agreed with the report’s contents;
however, expressed concerns that the analysis, findings, and recommen-
dations found in the report were not as detailed or prescriptive as would
be necessary to assist the Secretary in addressing the matters that GAO
raised. The Office of the Secretary also indicated that detailed systems
reviews would be necessary to provide the guidance needed for correc-
tive actions. We agree that automated system reviews would be helpful
in identifying specific recommendations and believe that VA should con-
tinually assess and monitor individual systems.


We are providing copies of this report to interested members of Con-
gress, executive branch agencies, and the public. We will also make cop-
ies available to others upon request. This work was performed under the
direction of Jack L. Brock, Jr., Director, Government Information and
Financial Management, who can be reached at (202) 275-3195. Other
major contributors are listed in appendix II.

Sincerely yours,




Ralph V. Carlone
Assistant Comptroller   General




P-12                     GAO-27         Iplld Chdhgea   8t hpt.   of Veterans Affairs
Pyle 18
        Contents


        Letter
        Appendix I                                                                       16
        Objective,Scope,and
        Methodology
        Appendix II                                                                      17
        Major Contributors to
        This Report




                                Abbreviations
                                        Automated ManagementInformation System
                                VA      Department of Veterans Affairs
                                GAO     General Accounting Office
                                        Information Management and Technology Division
                                IRM     Information ResourcesManagement




_ ---
oAo/TnrmG#27   IRM Ch8Uengea 8t Dept. of VeteMs   Mfalra
Appendix I

Objective,Scope,and Methodology


              The objective of our management review was to assess the effectiveness
              of VA'S information resources in supporting its mission and to work with
              the Assistant Secretary for IRMin developing specific recommendations
              on how VA can bring about and sustain needed improvements. We
              focused on central IRM management practices and aSSeSSed VA'S current
              initiatives: (1) reorganizing its IRMoffice, (2) developing a strategic IRM
              planning process, and (3) considering a departmentwide management
              information system.

              Our work was primarily conducted at VA'S central office in Washington,
              D.C. To assess field operations and service to veterans, we also visited a
              medical center and a regional benefits office in Washington, DC.; a data
              processing center in Austin, Texas; and a medical center in West
              Roxbury, Massachusetts.

              We interviewed top program and IRM officials to gain an understanding
              of the challenges they face in managing information. We also discussed
              perceptions of VA's IRMdeficiencies and needed corrective actions with
              key officials at the General Services Administration, Office of Manage-
              ment and Budget, and national veterans’ service organizations. Addi-
              tionally, we also had a consultant help us analyze VA'S proposed
              reorganization and develop specific recommendations. And finally, to
              understand long-standing IRMdeficiencies, we analyzed congressional
              hearings and legislation, consultant studies, reports from GAO and other
              agencies, and other pertinent documents.

              We conducted our review from June to November 1989, in accordance
              with generally accepted government auditing standards. We obtained
              official agency comments on a draft of this report from VA'S Office of the
              Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for IRM, and have incorporated
              their comments where appropriate.




              Page 16
               Contributors to This Report


                             Christie Motley, Assistant Director
     Information             Ona M. Noble, Evaluatmin4harge
     Managementand
     TechnologyDivision,
     Washington,D.C.

     HumanResources
     Division, Washington,
     D.C.




     (alout)                 Page17



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t--.-.   -.-__--___   ___.   -.._-~~.-- .~              ____._.-.-.. .-.-.              --_ _-. --   - -.--.-          --   __l_..l   ..--..-




                                _-.-   .---   -.-__-_                _-^I_____-__----                           ---.                     .-..




                                Requests for copies of (.A() rtbports should he sent to:

                                I 3. Gtvwral Amounting                                     Office
                                Post Office Hox Wl5
                                (Aitht~rsburg, Maryland                                   2OH77




                                There is a 25”1, diwount                                 OII   cbrtkrs fc)r IO0 or mow cwpies mailed to a
                                sin&* addrt*ss.