Agency e-gov reports may have little utility

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Agencies covered by the e-government Act of 2002 indeed make annual reports as required, but those reports aren't always seen as useful, finds the Government Accountability Office.

In a generally positive report (.pdf) dated Sept. 12, the GAO says federal agencies have taken many actions to implement the act and to promote electronic delivery of government services.

Still, auditors note areas for improvement, and state that while all 24 affected agencies have, as required, submitted an annual e-gov report to the Office of Management and Budget, nine of those agencies "questioned the value" of those reports. Three dissenters noted that the reports duplicate information already provided to OMB.

Even the remarks of agency officials who did say the reports have value suggest their utility might be more in marketing rather than decision making, since representatives from seven of those agencies said the reports "helped to highlight their annual e-government accomplishments."

Only three agencies in all have used them to evaluate how they address act requirements, and another one used the reports to cite effective e-government practices.

Auditors also say that OMB has yet to establish a governmentwide online repository for federally funded research and development projects that's searchable by the public.

It made an attempt with a website known as RaDiUS and the still-active science.gov, but the National Science Foundation shuttered RaDiUS in 2008 following complaints that it was difficult to use, incomplete, and that the database behind it was built with antiquated technology. As for science.gov, the report says previous GAO analysis found that only 11 of 24 e-gov Act agencies reported activities to it.

In March, OMB officials told auditors an in-development online dashboard should meet the act's requirements, but auditors say that currently data from only two agencies, and only from fiscals 2000 to 2009, is on the dashboard. There is no timeline for agencies to provide information to the dashboard, the report says OMB officials said.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-12-782 (.pdf)

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