Auditors fault SSA for not following up on FSTAP recommendations
The Social Security Administration shut down an advisory committee on technological change and said it would not implement its recommendations without any evidence that it has assessed the costs and benefits of those recommendations, says the SSA office of inspector general.
In a report (.pdf) dated Aug. 20, auditors note the agency spent more than $550,000 on the Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel after standing it up in February 2008. On Jan. 9, the agency commissioner closed the advisory panel down, stating that the agency lacks the resources to support the panel or to implement its recommendations.
During its existence, the panel issued four reports and made 78 recommendations ranging from quick, low-cost measures that SSA could undertake for immediate productivity gains to fundamental changes to its service delivery model.
After reviewing materials associated with the panel, auditors say the agency agreed with 67 percent of the recommendations, disagreed with 8 percent of them, didn't provide enough information for auditors to determine what agency officials think of another 18 percent, and said the final 3 percent would have to be the responsibility of another federal agency.
Social Security officials also said they had already implemented 11 of the recommendations--but the agency didn't track implementation of the panel's recommendations or any cost savings made as a result.
As a result, auditors say they can't tell whether SSA actually effected the recommendations it said it did or whether it's just saying it did.
There's also the matter of the unimplemented recommendations--auditors say the agency should execute a cost-benefit analysis, especially for those which it has told the board it agreed with.
In a terse official response to the audit, Dean Landis, the deputy chief of staff, indicated the agency is unlikely to do so. "It is clearly inappropriate to audit recommendations provided by an advisory committee created by the commissioner to solicit independent, external consideration of IT issues," Landis said.
Auditors in the report say they disagree with that assertion, and note that in an administration so emphatically in favor of cost-effectiveness, the SSA "should use taxpayer dollars in the most cost-effective way and be transparent on how these dollars were used."
The reports produced by the panel were hosted on the SSA website until its termination. Auditors published all four of them in the appendices of their report.
- download the OIG report, A-14-12-11222 (.pdf)