• California State Auditor Warning: Only a Third of State’s IT Data “Reliable”. Ouch…

    December 18th, 2014 by admin Categories: Blogs Tags: , , , , , ,

    In a remarkably low-key announcement accompanying her report, State Auditor Elaine Howle notified the Governor and the legislature today that her office performed 53 data reliability assessments of state IT systems, and “determined for the purposes of the audits that the data were sufficiently reliable in 19 assessments.” So, two-thirds were not reliable!

    The state (and the public and the media I should add) relies on the accuracy and reliability of this data in order to manage and report on its programs and budgets, for processing payroll and personnel transactions, and managing state finances. (Incidental stuff like that!)

    There were 17 data reliability assessments for which the auditor concluded that the data were not sufficiently reliable. There is no specific mention of the 17 other assessments but the math would indicate that these were of “undetermined reliability”, the third category used in Data Reliability Assessments, based upon U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) standards the State Auditor follows. So 34 of 53 audits determined that the data were unreliable!

    Howle writes that “this report is intended to call attention both to areas of concern, where important data are not always reliable, and to instances in which information has been reliable.” To “call attention”, that’s not exactly a call to arms…

    Indeed, such findings (to this former Department of Defense Auditor) would seem to cry out for an immediate enlargement of the sample of the state’s most critical IT systems to determine just how pervasive this unreliability is, and to demand immediate action to address these problems. My read of this report frankly calls into question the accuracy of the state’s mission critical IT systems, including the ability to produce reliable reporting on the State of California’s $225 billion annual spending.  Am I overreacting?

    Definitions Used in Data Reliability Assessments

     Sufficiently Reliable Data

    —Based on audit work, an auditor can conclude that the likelihood of significant errors or incompleteness is minimal and that using the data would not lead to an incorrect or unintentional message given the research questions and intended use of the data.

     Not Sufficiently Reliable Data

    —Based on audit work, an auditor can conclude that results indicate significant errors or incompleteness in some of or all the key data elements and that using the data could lead to an incorrect or unintentional message, given the research questions and intended use of the data.

     Data of Undetermined Reliability

    —Based on audit work, an auditor can conclude that use of the data may or may not lead to an incorrect or unintentional message, given the research questions and intended use of the data.

     Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

     See report here:

    Data Reliability: State Agencies’ Computer-Generated Data Varied in Their Completeness and Accuracy.  Letter Report 2014-401

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