GAO will investigate the troubled TSP recordkeeper transition
Officials at the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program said nearly 2 million participants have successfully set up their new online account access, and call center wait times are down to around 10 minutes.
A government watchdog agency confirmed last week that it will investigate the Thrift Savings Plan’s difficult transition to a new recordkeeping vendor.
Since June 1, when the TSP moved its recordkeeping services to a new provider, Accenture Federal Services, and updated its website to feature a more secure login process and a number of other changes and new features, participants have reported difficulty setting up and logging into their accounts, finding account information and historical documents, and confirming their beneficiary choices, among other issues.
Compounding those problems have been an unprecedented volume of calls to the TSP’s ThriftLine customer service number. Officials have said the contractor that operates the ThriftLine greatly underestimated the influx of calls they would receive and didn’t have enough staff to handle demand.
Last month, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a “comprehensive examination” of what went wrong, including the planning and implementation of the new recordkeeping system. In an August 3 letter to the lawmakers that was published this week, GAO Managing Director for Congressional Relations A. Nicole Clowers confirmed that the watchdog agency would investigate the matter.
“Thank you for your letter requesting that the Government Accountability Office review matters relating to the new Thrift Savings Plan online system, including the planning, contract award and implementation, as well as oversight by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board,” Clowers wrote. “GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority.”
Work on the investigation will begin in around three months, Clowers said.
“Since the new TSP system launched, my team and I have heard from many of Virginia’s federal employees and retirees about personal issues they are experiencing with the system,” Spanberger said in a statement. “I hope that the impending review of these outstanding issues will come as welcome news to the dedicated public servants who are experiencing issues, and I look forward to monitoring the progress and findings made by the agency.”
Norton has also said that she plans to introduce legislation to establish an inspector general to oversee the agency that administers the TSP, although that has yet to come to fruition.
At a meeting of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board last month, TSP officials highlighted a number of changes to improve participants’ experience, including simplifying the account setup process and hiring more than 1,000 new call center employees, although that figure did not account for attrition at the contractor. They predicted a return to “normalcy” some time this month.
TSP Spokeswoman Kim Weaver told Government Executive that as of Aug. 12, the average wait time on the ThriftLine is “roughly 10 minutes.” And as of Aug. 10, nearly 2 million TSP participants have successfully set up their new accounts on TSP.gov, and the website has seen 10.1 million logins.
Between June 1 and Aug. 10, the agency has processed $193 million in account rollovers, $973 million in loans, and $5.7 billion in withdrawals. More than 280,000 participants have downloaded the new Thrift Savings Plan mobile app, accounting for nearly 1 million logins. And around 4,800 participants have enrolled in the new mutual fund window, although there have been only 2,084 fund transfers into one of the around 5,000 funds available, totaling $91 million.