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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Reader Comments

Tue, Sep 28, 2010 Linda Joy Adams

Is this why my appeals keep disappearing off the system and then paper files disappear? Is this why 2 years of part b premiums disappeared out of cyber escrow when the $250 stimulus payments were processed. Computer programmers have to know the laws and regulations better than anyone in the agency. If they don't, terrible mistakes get made and constitutional rights disappear. Maybe I should send my medical bills to the contractor? It was bad enough when CMS OK'd billing software a decade ago that left no field for ran override code to make it a conditional payment and thats a trillion dollars goes uncollected due back to medicare form primaries that were supposed to pay instead and the problem is still not corrected. 80,000 lost SSA benefits because some 'idiot' didn't know that the prisoners lists had had to be checked out for errors since the beginning of the law that restricted payments; and SSA got sued. Question is why don't our prisons know who's there, yet? We've a group? that thinks if its on a computer monitor its accurate? Not in the current world. Humans must still monitor and oversee as that kind of system security is not yet here! Thanks for reporting this! Linda Joy Adams

Tue, Sep 28, 2010 Linda Joy Adams OK

That's how 2 years of part b Medicare premiums are lost out of cyber escrow. And now the hearing file is missing so I can't get a judge to legally straighten it out. years ago, SSA used to train their computer programmers in house so that they had full understanding of all the laws and regulations and how they interacted with laws and regs in other areas of govt. Too often, they'd get trained and leave for higher paying jobs in private industry. Now, few seem to have any understanding and terrible mistakes are being made. Remember the lawsuit by 80,000 recipients who erroneously got on a 'prisoner' list and got their benefits suspended and no one at SSA would listen.( and historical we always had to work those lists because they were rarely fully accurate.) This is not the SSA I went to work for in 6/68. And Congress used to 'breathe down our necks' if we didn't treat the public with all due respect for their rights and in a dignified manner. No wonder the public is dissatisfied with what's going on in Washington as no one seems to KNOW anything anymore! praises to those rank and file workers who do know and no one listens to because they're not in charge. Linda Joy Adams still trying to get someone to find my hearing file that was ordered out of the McAlester hearing office last Fall by an unnamed party who them allowed it to 'disappear' altogether. The law says that's multiple felonies: one to 'disappear' and the other to not file a law enforcement report. OIG SSA seems unable to get approval for an investigation from the Commissioner of SSA who decides if any investigations will occur and anyone referred for prosecution. This affects on -going life sustaining medical treatment and its 21+ years of files going missing in whatever agency has custody. Linda Joy Adams ( didn't want to be a whistle blower)

Tue, Sep 28, 2010

They should look at aome of the DOD mass buys. $2.9 million falling through the cracks is nothing. Many DOD commands can't even come up with a good inventory of what equipment they have on hand.

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