SSA's tracking of computer buys is a mess, IG says in report

Inspector general unable to reconcile $2.9M worth of purchases

The Social Security Administration’s records for its recent computer purchases are a mess and could indicate overpayments of as much as $2.9 million, according to a new report from SSA’s Office of the Inspector General.

Due to the incomplete and unreconciled inventory-tracking records, the IG wasn't able to conclude whether SSA had received more or fewer computers than it paid for from Hewlett-Packard.

“In a best-case scenario, SSA could owe Hewlett-Packard about $98,000 for 345 computers and monitors ordered but not billed,” states the OIG report of Sept. 15. “On the other hand, if we relied on Hewlett-Packard’s Inventory Reports, SSA overpaid the contractor approximately $2.9 million for 6,386 computers and monitors billed but not received.”

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As part of its workstation replacement project, SSA entered into a blanket purchase agreement with HP in September 2005 to buy computers, monitors, peripheral equipment, accessories and maintenance services. The agency ordered about 86,000 computers and 109,000 monitors and paid $95.2 million under the contract.

However, due to incomplete and inconsistent records, the IG couldn't determine whether the products, services, and total costs adhered to the contract's terms and regulations.

“Specifically, SSA did not reconcile the total quantity of equipment it ordered with the quantity of equipment Hewlett-Packard’s records indicated it delivered,” the IG wrote. "Our attempts to reconcile these records were unsuccessful."

The IG said 11 of the 50 deliveries reviewed did not have sufficient evidence. For seven of the 11 deliveries, the shipping records did not support the quantities ordered and billed, and for the remaining four deliveries, no records were available.

Despite those problems, the IG found that the type of equipment and unit prices charged to SSA agreed with the contract terms and that invoices were submitted and paid promptly.

SSA’s Office of Telecommunications and Systems Operations acknowledged that HP's inventory report was incomplete and that this condition might have affected the accuracy of SSA’s asset inventory records. SSA officials also said oversight procedures could be improved to better track, monitor and document various records.

To improve accountability, the IG recommended that SSA:

  • Develop a comprehensive process for reconciling equipment orders, delivery receipts, quantities invoiced and asset inventory lists.
  • Implement a system or process in which components can electronically certify the receipt of specific types and quantities of computer equipment received and billed.

SSA officials agreed with the recommendations, according to the report.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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