GAO report slams DHS on reforms

Feb. 22, 2006 at 12:06 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Homeland Security Department has been slow to implement a series of recommendations, the GAO says.

The DHS has so far failed to implement recommended changes to strengthen its visitor tracking program, increasing the chance that it will fail to meet goals on time and on budget, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released earlier this month.

The GAO has issued 18 management-related recommendations for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program since May 2003, the report (GAO-06-296) said. The suggestions involve cost-benefit analyses, cost estimates and justifications, testing plans and human resource plans, reported.

Homeland Security has made some progress in adopting the recommendations, the congressional auditors found, but has been slow in many areas.

The GAO found that DHS had fully implemented two recommendations: defining staff roles and responsibilities, and hiring an independent contractor for validation and verification.

But auditors found that implementation was "partially complete" on another 11 recommendations, with activities in place to address them but results not documented. These recommendations included development and implementation of security, risk management and testing plans; cost-benefit analyses of program components; performance of privacy impact assessments; development of acquisition controls; and assessments of completed work, said.

GAO identified an additional five recommendations as "in progress." They included developing cost-estimating practices and the identification of interdependencies between U.S. VISIT and the Automated Commercial Environment program, an import-export processing system, said.

DHS officials rejected many of the auditors' criticisms. In a lengthy response letter, Steven Pecinovsky, director of DHS's GAO/Inspector General Liaison Office, said many of the auditors' assessments failed to examine relevant documentation and overlooked U.S. VISIT staff coordinating roles that address concerns including security and privacy, said.

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