Did SSA lose track of employees when it overspent on software?

The Social Security Administration has overspent on software licenses for its employees by $3.2 million since 2008, possibly because executives did not subtract the employees departing their jobs from the total number of users, according to a report from SSA Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll Jr.

As a result of the apparent miscounting and other problems, agency officials purchased four times as many software licenses as SSA needed, the report states.


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The audit report details problems with overspending on licenses as a result of two Blanket Purchase Agreements for purchase of software licenses and maintenance of Microsoft products. The first contract was in 2003 with Softmart Government Services, and a second was awarded in 2008 to ASAP Software Express, which was acquired by Dell Marketing.

Overall, SSA complied with the contracts and received and documented the goods and services it had paid for appropriately, O’Carroll wrote in the Sept. 15 audit.

However, since 2008, SSA spent approximately $3.2 million to purchase about 7,300 more client access licenses than were necessary to support SSA software users.

In addition, SSA has also bought about 32,800 more Windows Operating System and 17,500 more Office Professional licenses than needed to accommodate SSA users since 2004, the report states.

SSA executives said the extra software purchases were made because a large number of computers were acquired for use in interviewing areas and training centers, but the agency was unable to provide documentation to substantiate that, O’Carroll wrote.

Without full information available, O’Carroll guessed that the SSA might have forgotten to subtract employees who were leaving the agency when it calculated how many licenses were needed. Alternatively, the agency might have bought software for inactive computers, he suggested.

While the SSA apparently thought it needed the additional licenses for computers in training and interview areas, “this does not fully explain or justify the purchase of more than six Operating System and four Office Professional licenses for each net employee added since 2004,” O’Carroll wrote. “The recent growth in license purchases could also indicate that SSA increased software license purchases when hiring new employees but did not decrease the number of licenses when employees left SSA, or SSA paid license and maintenance fees for inactive desktop or laptop computers.”

O’Carroll recommended that the agency ensure that license purchases are based on the actual number of users, and to fully document how it determines how many licenses have been purchased. SSA officials agreed with the recommendations.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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