Audit finds improprieties in GSA/Peace Corps cloud email pilot

A deal between the General Services Administration and the Peace Corps to provide cloud email might have run afoul of funding laws, according to GSA's inspector general.

Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud system fracture.

The General Services Administration was one of the first federal agencies to adopt a cloud-based service enterprisewise, and it has actively urged other agencies to do the same. In 2014, that proselytizing took the form of providing cloud-based email services to the Peace Corps at no cost.

However, GSA did not receive the Office of Management and Budget approval necessary for all interagency services and provided the Peace Corps pilot project with six months of services -- over two separate three-month stints -- without an active memorandum of understanding between the two agencies, according to a March 22 report from GSA's Office of Inspector General.

Additionally, the report states that the Economy Act of 1932 -- the legislative authority the two agencies cited to permit GSA to provide services to the Peace Corps -- requires payment for those services. The improper arrangement effectively augmented the Peace Corps' budget by $24,777.

In developing the pilot program without OMB's approval, GSA circumvented protocol and provided the Peace Corps with upwards of 500 cloud-based computing licenses that were not intended for interagency use, the OIG concluded.

The report found that GSA offered cloud services for three months before the MOU was finalized in December 2014, then again from February to May 2015 without an active agreement between the two agencies. The lack of formal agreement meant there were no terms and conditions outlining what the shared services would include, and each agency's responsibilities were undefined.

The report is not the first time an oversight entity has raised concerns about the GSA/Peace Corps cloud services partnership. The Peace Corps' OIG issued a report in March 2015 detailing concerns that proper processes were not being followed, and it made six recommendations of its own.

Among other things, GSA's OIG recommended that the agency take steps to ensure future compliance with federal policy and guidelines; seek approval from senior leaders, GSA's Office of General Counsel and OMB before commencing interagency work; and enact an official agreement before any shared services are provided.

GSA officials concurred with all the recommendations.

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