Treasury IG audit finds fault with IRS IT plans

Treasury IG audit finds fault with IRS IT plans

The IRS needs almost complete replacement of its IT systems, commissioner Charles Rossotti says.

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The IRS modernization project faces computer security weaknesses, equipment inventory control problems and inadequate financial reporting, a senior Treasury Department official told senators last week.

David C. Williams, Treasury's inspector general for tax administration, outlined the plan's shortcomings in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

The recent Treasury IG audits 'have identified additional weaknesses in the areas of security controls over the IRS' computer facilities, networks and systems. Until these weaknesses are resolved, IRS systems and data are vulnerable to tampering,' Williams said.

When the IRS has mapped its overall computer architecture, it can identify security vulnerabilities and detect systems anomalies, he said.

'Not all management information systems provide sufficient data to ensure taxpayer rights are protected, and its financial management systems do not provide reliable data through the IRS' financial statements,' Williams said.

The service last year received $68 million'$35 million in June and $33 million in December'for the overhaul of its computers, Williams said. Meanwhile, the IRS has focused on establishing program management processes and architectural standards for the modernization, and on developing a partnership with its Prime contractor.

The IRS in December 1998 awarded the estimated $5 billion, 15-year Prime contract to Computer Sciences Corp., which is overseeing the modernization effort for the service [GCN, Dec. 14, 1998, Page 1].

Other potential obstacles to the modernization's success include critical vacancies on project teams and a lack of funds if the IRS fails to meet its rollout schedule, Williams said.

'Updating our business practices to better serve taxpayers requires almost a complete replacement of IRS' information technology systems,' IRS commissioner Charles O. Rossotti told the committee.

But after the hearing Rossotti declined to answer a reporter's questions about the IG testimony.

With the funding received so far, especially the recent $33 million allocation, 'we can begin to roll out improvements beginning in 2001,' he said.

Balancing day-to-day operations with modernization projects, year 2000 preparations and congressional mandates has been a challenge, Rossotti said.

'These conflicting trends have not been reconciled by new technology because almost all technology spending during this period has been devoted to fixing the Y2K problem and responding to the needs of the Tax Relief Act of 1997 and the Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998,' he said.

'To this day the IRS still depends on some of the most obsolete computer systems of any large institution in America,' he added.

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