The Horror Of It All

March 05, 1993|By Knight Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Ask investigators to name the best government computer systems and long silences are likely to follow. Ask for horror stories and the response is rapid.

What follows are some of the worst cases cited by computer experts at the General Accounting Office, the House Government Operations Committee and agency inspectors general:

* The Veterans Benefit Administration, concerned about taking an average of 151 days to decide whether a veteran was disabled, spent $94 million on a computer system to speed up claims. It now takes an average 140 days.

* The Resolution Trust Corp. needed a computerized real estate index to help dispose of $17 billion in bottom-of-the-barrel assets from failed savings and loans. But the system lacks basic data in 80 percent of the entries, like price or the broker's name.

* The Education Department combs its student loan "data dump" to assure that borrowers don't get new loans if they haven't paid or have exceeded their limits. But the latest data in the computer is from 1991. Because of the lag, taxpayers are stuck with up to $800,000 a day in guarantees of bad loans.

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