Report: VA Buys $7.2 Million Of Tech, Realized They Don’t Need Any Of It

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A division within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wasted $7.2 million buying computers and software licenses that it didn’t need while trying to become more secure, the Office of the Inspector General reported Tuesday.

The VA Office of Information and Technology “wasted about $7.2 million in VA funds” at centers that manage patient billing and insurance reimbursement “to purchase underutilized computers that also required Windows enterprise licenses to operate,” the IG report said.

The funds were wasted because managers did not consider the risk of duplication as they set out to replace a massive data management system to be more secure. (RELATED: IRS Spent $12 Million Of Taxpayer Money On Email System, Find Out After It Doesn’t Work)

In total, the VA paid for 3,695 computers, two advanced computers, 3,697 software licenses (at $1,339.11 each), and annual software licensing renewal at $20 each.

The VA needed none of them. The VA IG considers $7,241,194 wasted.

The seven Consolidated Patient Account Centers (CPACs), which performs “billing and collections activities” for the entire VA network, clearly needs a robust data management system and high tech computers.

The way employees at CPACs did their work, prior to 2013, was to log into terminals known as “thin clients,” which create a “virtual desk environment” for each employee on the network, rather than having individual computers that communicate over the network. A VDI means that all the software and information is stored away from the employee’s desk.

In order to be more secure, the Office of Information and Technology mandated that each center convert to individual computers. The managers did not take into account what was needed for those computers though, and so each employee used the desktop — complete with licensed Windows software — and logged on to the VDI system they were used to.

“Specifically, CPAC employees used computers only as gateways to access a virtual machine and did not fully use the computers’ stored programs or computing capabilities. Instead, CPAC employees used networked resources as if they were still using thin clients,” the IG said.

The IG recommended the Office of Information and Technology put in place processes to better understand what was actually needed before making large purchases in the future. The assistant secretary for Information and Technology agreed with the IG’s findings, as well as the recommendation.

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