GAO: Most e-government projects have yet to meet original goals

Only two of 25 Web projects designed to grant the public greater access to government services are meeting all of their original objectives, a General Accounting Office official told lawmakers Wednesday.

Another five e-government initiatives have reached most, but not all, goals, Linda Koontz, director of information management issues at the General Accounting Office, testified at a House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology hearing. Project managers set the goals in their "first formal work plans" and sent them to the Office of Management and Budget in May 2002.

"The substantial number of objectives that are still unmet or only partially met indicates that making progress on these initiatives is more challenging than OMB may have originally anticipated," Koontz said. E-government is one area of President Bush's five-part management agenda, and administration officials in May 2003 pushed the goal of getting 80 percent of the Web projects up and running by July 1, 2004.

Though overall progress on e-government has been mixed, the Internal Revenue Service's e-file project and the Health and Human Services Department's Grants.gov site have reached all their initial objectives, Koontz said.

By the end of February 2004, the grants site listed 835 available grants at 29 agencies, allowing the public a "simple, unified way to find grant opportunities via the Web," Koontz reported in her testimony. The project managers also set up measures to ensure the initiative achieved desired results.

Karen Evans, OMB's e-government administrator, told lawmakers she is particularly pleased with the e-file initiative. About 8.8 million citizens already have used the site to file their 2003 taxes electronically from their home computers, she said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Project SAFECOM, designed to improve communications among various levels of government, has "made very limited progress in achieving its original objectives," Koontz said. The initiative is unlikely to reach any of the goals until 2008, she said, and at the current rate, will probably not achieve full success until 2023.

But Evans and project managers testifying before the subcommittee said that in general, they feel heartened by improvements in e-government. The hearing afforded panelists an opportunity to "celebrate success and much progress despite unexpected bumps in the road on some projects and a number of continuing obstacles," said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chairman of the subcommittee.

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