GAO: Retirement program modernization lags

The Office of Personnel Management’s program to modernize the federal retirement program is far from being completed, partly because a contract supporting the program was canceled, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today.

For the past two decades, OPM has been working to modernize the paper-intensive processes and antiquated systems used to support the retirement of federal employees. By moving to an automated system, OPM intends to improve the program’s efficiency and effectiveness.

However, GAO said, OPM has only partially implemented two of eight planned capabilities for the modernization program — one for an integrated database of retirement information accessible to OPM and agency retirement processing personnel and another for enhanced customer service capabilities.

The remaining six capabilities haven't been implemented because they depended on items from the canceled contract, the report states.

The missing capabilities include automated submission of retirement information through interfaces with federal agencies and Web-accessible self-service retirement information for active and retired federal employees.

GAO said OPM hasn't developed a complete plan that describes how the program is to proceed. OPM documents describe implementing the program, but they do not include a definition of the program, its scope, lines of responsibility and authority, management processes, and a schedule, GAO auditors reported.

Several management weaknesses are also delaying the modernization effort. OPM hasn't developed a cost-estimating plan or established a performance-measurement baseline  for effective cost estimating and earned value management, according to GAO.

Although OPM’s Executive Steering Committee and Investment Review Board have recently become more active regarding the modernization program, named RetireEZ, the groups did not exercise effective oversight in the past, which has allowed the management weaknesses to persist, according to GAO. OPM has not established guidance regarding how these entities are to intervene when corrective actions are needed, the report states.

“Until OPM addresses these weaknesses, many of which GAO and others made recommendations to correct, the agency’s retirement modernization initiative remains at risk of failure,” the report states.

In written comments, the director of OPM agreed with GAO’s recommendations and described steps the agency is taking to implement them. OPM Director John Berry said that, among other measures, he would solicit the views of experts at federal agencies that have undergone similar modernization efforts.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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