Program Data Quality




MARCH 22, 2000


Good Morning. My name is Bill Piatt and I am the Chief Information Officer of the General Services Administration. Today's hearing on Program Data Quality provides GSA the welcome opportunity to testify on the high level of scrutiny and quality controls we demand for the data in our systems. In addition we feel that our successful efforts over the last year to improve our data quality illustrates a broader effort to measure, evaluate and improve key business functions throughout the agency.

The data in GSA's system are the key to almost every aspect of our business. Financial statements, customer billing, repairs and alterations, fleet management, building security, and many other important operations are directly impacted by the quality and integrity of our information. GSA supervises, controls, and takes full responsibility for an enormous amount of government-owned assets and property. We understand that without complete and reliable information on all of our business lines it would be impossible to fulfill our mission. To that end we have undertaken initiatives in several of our most critical systems over the last two years that have resulted in significant improvements in the reliability of our data. These initiatives have allowed GSA to improve relationships with our customers, strengthen financial management, and provide better-maintained and more secure public buildings.

In GSA, we frequently remind ourselves that "What you measure is what you get." That phrase captures our determination to track the most important revenue and customer data elements in order to improve their accuracy. Tracking and measurement are proven methods for improving performance and GSA has brought this technique to our business lines with successful results.

One important example of GSA's performance measure initiative is our Data Accuracy measurement for Public Building customer billing. Almost three years ago, the Public Buildings Service instituted a new commercial, off-the-shelf system known as STAR, or System for Tracking and Administering Real Property. The system updated hardware and software and moved data from old legacy systems. Initially there were problems with the data quality of STAR, with almost all of the errors inherited from older systems. As we moved to the new system it became apparent that there were accuracy problems and we recognized the need to measure and correct any errors. We began measuring data accuracy in July 1999 and by September had already seen a reduction in rate omissions of more than 95%. In October we initiated more sophisticated measurements of our data accuracy and our results have continued to improve.

We understand however that measuring and analyzing our data accuracy is not the full or final solution to this continuing challenge and we have begun to look forward to maintaining quality assurance in the long-term. We have begun mapping our processes, benchmarking with industry's best practices and instituting changes to further cleanse our data before it enters any GSA system.

A contract for the support of PBS Data Clean Up and Data Quality Assurance initiative has been awarded to Arthur Andersen, LLP and a team of Andersen professionals have been deployed to all 11 PBS regions nationwide.

Working with GSA personnel this team will ensure that the accuracy of data remains high and will also develop processes, policies and procedure to ensure that once data is "cleaned" and validated, it remains accurate going forward in all systems. The team is also developing the capability to provide all PBS clients with accurate and timely information on the government's real estate portfolio.

While the STAR system is an important example of our work in this area, it is just one of many. Our critical Federal Supply Service systems, FSS-19 and the Federal Fleet Management System have all data entered directly by users through a web-based front end and then verified. This system has provided reliability and accuracy in our Federal Supply data.

Another critical system in GSA is the Building Security Committee Tracking System. This system, implemented after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, tracked building security upgrades. In 1998, GSA became aware of inaccuracies in this system's data that prevented a full determination of the status of upgrades or the cost of upgrade expenditures. In May 1999, we determined that a more user-friendly system was the solution for correcting data inaccuracies. A prototype of that system is now being tested in GSA's Ft. Worth Texas Office with excellent results. An October 1999 GAO study found that an overwhelming majority of all system inaccuracies had been corrected. The new system will be rolled out nationwide this summer.

GSA's data accuracy is a priority for our business. Since our business lines are supported through payments we receive from our customers, we simply cannot afford inaccuracies. One indicator of our success in these efforts has been the twelve straight years of unqualified annual opinions from an outside accounting firm. This year we were one of only twelve Federal organizations to receive such an opinion.

As we move from older legacy systems to new, source-driven information systems we have seen more customers and internal personnel performing analysis and making decisions based on verified and timely information. This new emphasis on measuring data accuracy and utilizing data in every aspect of our work has made this area a high priority. We feel that Congress, our customer and the taxpayer can rely on GSA's data and systems.

That concludes my opening statement and I would be glad to answer your questions.

Last Reviewed 2010-04-30