SEC wants to automate complaint process

The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking for a better and faster way to handle the thousands of complaints it receives each year from the public.

Since April it has been searching for a commercial software program that will scan all complaints — no matter how they are delivered to the SEC — into an electronic record and also permit specific authorized users to access them by using a browser.

"We want [a complaint] in a format we can roll into the database and, with programming, direct it to the appropriate staff person for handling," said John Gannon, deputy director of the SEC's office of investor education and assistance. "The goal is to have better service for the investor. The faster we get something into the system, the faster we can respond to a complaint."

Every year some 72,000 complaints pour into the SEC — by regular mail and e-mail, by fax and phone and by World Wide Web forms available on the agency's Web site (www.sec.gov).

All the complaints go into a database, a process that now requires many to be entered manually — a labor-intensive, time-consuming burden, according to Gannon.

The agency has issued a request for proposals to companies on the General Services Administration's schedule. The SEC hopes to have proposals in by June 23, according to Linda Sudhoff, contracting officer for the SEC.

The earliest the agency could make an award would be 30 days later, she said.

"I think there is some off-the-shelf software available that may have to be customized for our use, based on what vendors have told us," Gannon said.

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