The Internal Revenue Service is wasting millions of dollars on technology that agency employees don’t use, according to an internal audit of government waste.
Out of the $11.4 million that the IRS spent on BlackBerrys and Internet aircards in fiscal year 2011, $1.1 million worth of the devices went unused for three months to a year, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
That means that nearly 14,000 aircards and more than 750 BlackBerrys weren’t activated for a chunk of the year. Sixty-eight BlackBerrys weren’t used at all, while still incurring the costs of a monthly cellphone plan.
Further, the report found that there was a lack of oversight in how the devices are assigned – with about $950,000 worth being activated through the IRS without the required management approval. Continued misuse would cost taxpayers a total of more than $10.7 million over five years.
Though the IRS maintains that aircards are distributed only to employees who telecommute or work in areas without Internet access, the report found that many individuals to whom the technology were issued “may not justify a business need for these devices.” Moreover, the IRS spends $1.6 million per year on BlackBerrys given to employees in non-management positions – about 60 percent of the cellphones given out.
Out of the six proposals sent to the IRS by the inspector general, the agency agreed with only two, saying it had policies in effect to protect abuse of the products provided to employees. It also disagreed that the agency should replace BlackBerrys with cheaper cellphones for lower-level employees.
The agency agreed to implement a system for detecting the unused devices, and although there is no such system in place, the IRS says it has “formally documented their nonusage cancellation process for BlackBerrys.” They also agreed to conduct a review for the types of positions within the agency that would warrant having an aircard or BlackBerry.
“The IRS indicated its process for identifying BlackBerrys with no usage was documented in November 2012, after we completed our field work. As a result, we cannot comment on whether the formalized process fully addresses our recommendation,” the report reads.
Still, the inspector general remains skeptical.
“We continue to believe that any process used by the IRS to identify inefficient use of BlackBerrys should include identifying both BlackBerrys with no usage (data or voice) and BlackBerrys for which telephone service is being used but data service is not.”
The study was conducted in response to President Obama’s 2011 executive order to “cut waste in federal government spending and identify opportunities to promote efficient and effective spending.” The order directed federal agencies to cut combined costs by 20 percent in six areas, including information technology devices.