Oversight

Software glitch, mismanagement cost OSHA $92 million

code scan (Titima Ongkantong/Shutterstock.com) 

Faulty software and poor oversight caused an agency within the Department of Labor to miss out on tens of millions of dollars in uncollected debts.

In a June 4 letter to the White House, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner cites an unnamed whistleblower who reported that officials in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Treasury did not move to correct an error in Treasury's debt processing software—called Artiva—that prevented the collection of $79 million in OSHA debts related to safety violations in the workplace.

That software, first implemented in 2017, was incompatible with OSHA's existing debt processing system and did not populate contact information for the parties responsible for paying the fees. That made it impossible for government officials to contact those parties and demand payment. A follow up report by Treasury officials confirmed the problem and said the amount of uncollected debt was actually closer to $92 million.

The whistleblower also accused OSHA and Treasury officials of engaging in violation of law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement and gross waste of funds" by not moving to address the software flaw and by recalling debts from Treasury earlier than needed, allowing OSHA officials to eventually write them off.

According to Kerner, Treasury officials have addressed the software glitch and Labor and OSHA have updated their debt-collection procedures for monitoring and transferring debts.

"I commend the whistleblower for bringing these serious allegations forward," said Kerner in a statement. "I am encouraged to see that both agencies appear to have taken prompt corrective action, including a commitment by Treasury to begin collecting the millions of dollars in safety fines owed to OSHA and to assess the outstanding debts owed to 12 additional agencies."

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


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