SSA shelves panel's IT recommendations, drawing IG criticism

The Social Security Administration spent more than half a million dollars to convene a panel of experts to help plan ahead for IT systems, then dismantled it and shelved most of the recommendations, claiming inadequate resources, according to a new audit by SSA  Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll.

The panel, called the Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel, cost SSA more than $550,000, and issued four reports and 78 recommendations before Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue pulled the plug in January, the IG said.

“The agency does not have the resources at this time to support the panel or to implement its recommendations,” officials wrote in a notice posted on the agency’s website in February.

FSTAP members provided independent advice and recommendations on future Internet applications, customer service, privacy, and other areas vital to the agency’s mission. Its members included federal officials and experts from industry and universities.

Social Security Administration officials said they agreed with 52 of the 78 recommendations. The recommendations dealt with, among other things, data center migration, modernizing legacy systems, and managing digital copies of medical files. Officials said they implemented 11 of the recommendations, which the IG termed “low-hanging fruit,” such as securing network access and moving customer services to the Internet. Officials also said they planned to implement 40 other recommendations.

When the IG’s auditors asked for an update on the recommendations the SSA planned to implement, officials directed them to the minutes and transcripts of past panel meetings. They provided no more information than that, according to the audit. The statement from February noted too that they would not implement the recommendations because they didn’t have the money to do so.

“To that end, we were unable to substantiate that the 11 recommendations considered implemented were, in fact, implemented,” O’Carroll wrote.

O’Carroll said no one can be sure how the panel helped. “We could not determine whether the agency received any cost savings from implementing its recommendations,” because officials didn’t note how they put any of the recommendations into action, O’Carroll wrote.

He recommended officials review the costs and benefits of the panel’s recommendations and adopt the ones with the greatest benefit to customers via modern technology.

SSA officials, instead, objected to the audit overall. “As the Commissioner of Social Security discussed with the Inspector General on multiple occasions, it is clearly inappropriate to audit recommendations provided by an advisory committee created by the Commissioner to solicit independent, external consideration of IT issues,” Dean Landis, deputy chief of staff at the agency, wrote to O'Carroll July 9.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Thu, Aug 30, 2012

What a waste. The IG is on a witch hunt instead of providing it's own recommendations, its sole purpose is to point the finger at agencies and departments. True that many suggestions need to be considered and at the same time cost of implementation should be a big factor but security and service to the people should be the greatest consideration balanced with cost. Besides, the sole purpose of government is to protect and serve its citizens, right? The IG needs to go after programs that enable laziness. Why is it we only hear the negative from IG. What about the positive things, the cuts, the increased services provided to our people with less resources to make it happen. Come on IG, show us the good not just the bad. It's getting old.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group