The Department of Veterans Affairs has identified missing approval records for department IT contracts worth about $661.4 million.
According to the department’s inspector general, the VA was not able to provide records for 4,513 contracts, which represents 39% of the IT contracts signed by the agency between March 2018 and the end of fiscal year 2021.
Per the 2015 Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), chief information officers at federal agencies must have visibility of IT contracting decisions and the power of approval. Where appropriate CIOs can designate other agency officials to act as their representatives, but they retain accountability for the contracts, according to the law.
In its report, the VA IG said: “For each contract action, we asked the department to provide evidence of approval or a rationale explaining why a FITARA review was not required. We revised our list based on VA’s responses and excluded any contract actions that were approved, as well as those contract actions with valid rationales for not needing FITARA approval. Following the review of VA’s responses, we identified the remaining list of potential IT contract actions as lacking evidence of FITARA approval.”
The audit was conducted between February 2022 and March 2023 and examined IT contracts that were signed between fiscal 2018 and 2021.
Late last month, Democrats on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs introduced a pair of bills that are intended to fundamentally reshape IT acquisition and management at the VA.
Reps. Mark Takano of California and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida have proposed the Manage VA Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs IT Modernization Improvement Act, which are intended to spur a wider overhaul of how technology services are procured at the agency.
If enacted, the Manage VA Act would create a VA undersecretary for management post, which the lawmakers say would have the effect of consolidating and standardizing acquisition and IT functions across the department.