GAO: OMB, GSA Need to Better Recover Technology Modernization Fund Costs

The General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget oversee the Technology Modernization Fund, which awards federal agencies funds to replace aging IT systems. As of August, the fund awarded $89 million to 7 projects. Agencies must repay awards and an administrative fee within 5 years.

The Government Accountability Office found

  • GSA spent $1.2 million for expenses but collected fewer fees than planned to offset costs
  • The 7 projects’ savings estimates aren’t reliable because projects didn’t incorporate all cost estimating best practices

GAO made recommendations to fully recover operating costs in a timely manner and to follow federal cost estimating guidance.

As of August 2019, the Technology Modernization Board had made seven Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) awards to five agencies, totaling about $89 million, and had transferred $37.65 million of this funding to the projects (see table). In addition, pursuant to the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, the General Services Administration (GSA) had obligated about $1.2 million to cover TMF operating expenses, but had recovered only about 3 percent of those expenses through fee payments. The seven projects are expected to make $1.2 million in scheduled fee payments by the end of fiscal year 2025; as of August, three projects have made fee payments totaling $33,165. Based on the current schedule, GSA will not fully recover these expenses until fiscal year 2025 at the earliest.

GSA had collected fewer fees than planned to offset costs due to several factors. For example, the seven projects paid fees based on the amounts transferred, rather the total funds awarded, thereby reducing fee collections in the initial years. Two projects also proposed scope changes that are expected to reduce funding required and, thus, reduce total fees. Such factors raise doubts on whether GSA will be able to fully recover future operating expenses. Although GSA acknowledged this issue, the agency has not yet developed a plan outlining the actions needed to fully recover its TMF operating costs in a timely manner.

The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) funding guidelines require projects to include a reliable estimate of any project-related savings. However, the seven projects’ reported savings estimates derived from cost estimates are not reliable. None of the projects incorporated all of the best practices for a reliable cost estimate, as defined in GAO and OMB guidance. Without clarifying the requirement that agencies follow Circular A-11’s cost estimating process (that references GAO’s cost estimating guidance discussed in this report), agencies are at risk of continuing to provide unreliable cost information in their proposals.

GAO is making five recommendations—two to OMB and three to GSA, including developing a plan to fully recover operating costs and clarifying that agencies should follow required cost guidance. OMB raised a number of concerns that GAO addresses in the report. GSA agreed with one recommendation and partially agreed with the other two. GAO continues to believe all of its recommendations are appropriate.

Read the GAO report

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