back to article Dear US taxpayers, 4.5 BEEELLION of your dollars were blown on unapproved IT projects

American government agencies are spending billions of tax dollars on IT projects without getting the proper approval or oversight. This is according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which studied the IT spending of 22 agencies, and found that about $4.5bn of Uncle Sam's $19.2bn IT spending in fiscal …

  1. Pen-y-gors

    Wow, impressive

    $4.5 Beeellion is quite a lot in real terms. I suspect it bought them about 4.5 man-years work from PwC/IBM etc.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Wow, impressive

      Eh, a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Wow, impressive

        Well, 4.5 billion is "two nuclear subs lost at sea".

  2. elDog

    Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

    I'm sure it's not true anywhere else but in the USofA, but the main function of the contracting officers within each organization is to make sure the cash flows smoothly to the MIPC complex. (I think it was Eisenhower who wanted to include the Political in the term but was dissuaded by political friends.)

    As time has moved forward since our Dear Saint Ronnie, the government has shrunk and the contractual arrangements have ballooned. (Again, gov't hasn't shrunk but it's a favorite mantra.)

    With fewer gov't employees monitoring the performance of multi-beeeelion contracts, it is probably natural that a few dollars here and there would not be accounted for.

    With the 'uglicans working very hard to make the IRS toothless, it is also probable that many of their friends will be able to make some very cool financial transactions without penalties.

    1. Sureo

      Re: Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

      "...not true anywhere else..."

      It makes me cry to see to amount of taxpayer money pissed away by this, mostly to IBM...

      1. Robert 22

        Re: Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

        These companies really know how to game the system. Tell the customer whatever they want to hear and by the time reality sets in, the bridges will have been burned and they can only move forwards.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

        Capita Do I need to write anything else?

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

        Western Democracies are basically Socialisms for civil servants, nepotists, wall street high flyers and the MIC, the latter two always steaming as close to total destruction as is possible to extract rent.

        Socialism works fine until you run out of someone else's money. Modern government has found the nice "solution" to print some more, it's the magical extraction of wealth! No taxes even needed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

      should have been approved by the component’s Deputy CIOs, Associate CIOs, or Deputy Associate CIOs

      There would appear to be quite a lot of government worth downsizing, given all these undoubtedly well paid roles. Maybe elDog is right, and its a wicked plot to reduce the levels of oversight, and what we need is more of these people? How about some new value-adding roles: First Assistant Deputy Associate CIO, Second Assistant Deputy Associate CIO, Auxiliary First Assistant Deputy Associate CIO, Aide to the Auxiliary First Assistant Deputy Associate CIO..........

      And that's before we expand the "Chief Acquisition Officer" role references in the last paragraph. Presumably there's a Deputy CAO, Associate CAO, Deputy Associate CAO. And don't forget finance - there will be a CFO, Deputy CFO, Associate CFO, Deputy Associate CFO.

      I'd say the project managers spending money without approval are HEROES who have worked miracles to get round all that lard-arsed bureaucracy.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Part of downsizing government, enriching the corporates

        What interests me here, from a UK local govt experience, is that the level of waste by frontline staff who are allowed to get on and do the job is is usually not very high because the available funds are dedicated to getting the job done, But when public bodies try to make cuts by seeking out (often imagined) waste it usually seems to end with fewer people doing the work that needs to be done and more managers with overlapping responsibilities, such that no one is fully responsible and the management to frontline cost ratio increases. (Think NHS administrators). Or else departmental spending is done in a hurry to meet arbitrary deadlines or claw backs that fail to bother with financial planning or long term needs. I've suffered in the past from having a chunk of carefully balanced budget whipped away from me because I'd only spent 80% of it at the 80% stage of the year. I inherited cupboards full of envelopes when I took the job. Because past managers had learnt the same thing the same hard way and stored their budgets by buying things they would need eventually. And I've seen other spending decisions made in a rush, without full information because of the worry that the beancounters would see that the money hadn't been spent yet and suddenly conclude that it couldn't be needed enough (or someone higher up had done some ear bending to get a favoured vanity project funded instead). The beancounter mentality can easily create perverse incentives. And the increased layers of management give an increased pressure for pet projects that don't necessarily meet the needs of frontline working. I also have a suspicion that some essential spending is deliberately kept below an arbitrary cost level, then the missing bits retrofitted at a later stage at higher costs because the beancounters don't accept the business plan. A good example, a small departmental computer network with no shared area (let alone a server) for shared documents that the team needed to share. Effectively just a bunch of stand alone PCs on a network. The budget for the computers had been cut back so there was no money for any shared storage whatever.

  3. Lorribot

    Not Techies' spending

    "Govt CIOs failing to scrutinize techies' spending – watchdog"

    I am 100% sure no techie was involved in the decision on any of the contracts or the source of the original requirements. These invarible come from the "Busines" an entertity I have never managed to corner anywhere and pin down or put a name to.

    No PM (IT or otherwise) could be labelled a techie, they are a best knowledgable users of IT and very good at doing paperwork, at worst living on a wing and a prey till they get found out, which from the techie side is around 5 minutes, from the business side is 6 months to a year depending on their contract.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "staff did not think they needed approval for the changes"

    That's interesting. Now tell me exactly how is it that "staff" not thinking it needs approval equates to "Accounting" actually paying money.

    Are we talking Government here, or are we talking the corner coffee shop ? Isn't there supposed to be some fucking officer in charge of authorizing spending ?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, my fault...

    I'm dyslexic & move the decilam in the wrong direction sometimes. Sorry, I'll try harder next tiem.

    Signed, Bob in Acocunting.

  6. Christoph

    "in many cases the dosh was blown on updates or modifications to existing contracts – and staff did not think they needed approval for the changes"

    You can't just spend that extra million dollars on the modifications to meet the changed specs - you need to get approval first! It will only delay the project by about six months and add 10 million to the cost.

  7. DCFusor

    Not defending anyone here, but the deficit last year was 666 billion, about 40% of which was simply printed out of thin air, and thus pure theft by devaluing our money. Asset inflation makes some feel richer till they find out their portfolio will only buy 3 eggs and a loaf of bread. (See Zimbabwe for a recent example)

    45 bil is chicken feed compared to that - it's actually far better than most parts of the government do. Not good, but if you look, it's not hard to find far worse...(cough f35 cough - and that's just one).

    Now if you want to discuss our over 20 trillion debt - or the fact that that's only 10% at most of the total liabilities we keep in separate books (Social Security and friends) - we could get that all important sense of proportion, even if we accidentally eat that piece of fairy cake.

  8. Uncle Ron


    I feel it is very important to keep in mind that there is quite probably a comparable story in the private sector as well. Small businesses, non-profits, to giant corporations all have "little," "personal," "departmental," or even "rogue" IT projects that somehow get past the watchful eye of the IT bureaucrats or detour around the "official processes." Adhering to the "rules" doesn't assure success, nor does bypassing the "rules" assure failure.

    As sure as I'm sitting here, some of that $4+ Billion in projects produced good value, and some of the "legal" ~$15 Billion was a total waste. I also feel strongly that bypassing the labyrinth of procurement rules doesn't automatically mean graft, corruption, or incompetence. Huh?

  9. Thomas Martin

    4,5 Billion is a drop in the bucket. The US Government has given a contract to Cerner to replace its VA EHR... and at a starting price of only 10 Billion. Someone please tell me what costs 10 billion for an EHR.

  10. macaroo

    The purpose of the US Government is to spend taxpayers money. Justification or not is not necessary.

  11. jlung


    This just sounds like a bureaucratic turf war. Until you have evidence that funds were misused, shut up and let them update the damn computers. You know how bad the federal government IT is? Yeah, they did that by waiting for CIO approval. Morons.

    Avoiding the red tape probably improves the quality of the product. Seriously, we're talking about federal government IT. Don't play dumb for clickbait. Don't call the money blown unless you can show that it was blown.

  12. Cuddles Silver badge

    The important question...

    Not properly approved is not the same as failing. Saying that billions have been blown on these projects suggests failure, but I suspect it would be interesting to see the success rates for unapproved projects compared to those that correctly waded through the bogs of bureaucracy.

  13. Norman123

    Don't worry. It is nothing compared to the waste in the military corporate wars: the cost of keeping one US soldier in Afghanistan is about $4 million per year.... Total cost multiply 4 x 20,000 (if this is the true number of troops)

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