GAO questions progress on retirement claims system

The Government Accountability Office again criticized the Office of Personnel Management for a lack of progress on the federal retirement modernization program, according to documents released last week.

In a March 28 letter to Congress, GAO said a recent OPM report citing progress on its retirement systems modernization program was incomplete. OPM's Feb. 20 report was required by Congress to help address problems with the agency's rollout of the program, known as RetireEZ.

In January, GAO released a report that found the RetireEZ system failed to set and meet consistent performance baselines and relied on faulty budget estimates. A fiscal 2008 omnibus appropriations bill directed OPM to submit to Congress a report on how it addressed four key concerns identified by GAO.

OPM launched RetireEZ on Feb. 25. The system now covers 26,000 employees at OPM, the General Services Administration, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Railroad Retirement Board. Subsequent rollouts will include the rest of the executive branch, the U.S. Postal Service, and the legislative and judicial branches.

GAO's primary concern was a major RSM component, the Defined Benefits Technology Solution, that might not function as intended. The DBTS is designed to provide employees self-service online tools for accessing accounts and retirement records, submitting transactions, monitoring claims and forecasting retirement income.

OPM's report summarized the results of recent user acceptance tests to verify that DBTS meets requirements. The latest round of testing found that the DBTS performed 89 percent of the time, according to OPM. That's a significant improvement over four previous rounds of testing GAO looked at for its report. In those instances, the DBTS passed user acceptance tests 77 percent, 4 percent, 22 percent and 39 percent of the time.

GAO was skeptical of the results OPM touted, noting the agency had conducted only user acceptance tests of the DBTS, and did not address results of other critical tests it planned to conduct starting in December 2007. In addition, the 89 percent figure still falls short of OPM's stated goal of passing 95 percent of mock scenarios.

The watchdog agency also said that a flaw discovered during one test could contaminate all the other tests running simultaneously. Concurrent testing produced a significant backlog of problems that were supposed to be resolved prior to the new system's deployment, GAO said. In its Feb. 20 report, however, OPM told Congress that the number of flaws fell to 15, far less than the 168 detailed in GAO's January report.

GAO said OPM's data on defects represented projected, rather than actual, data for February. "OPM's plan to deploy its system with a total of 13 unresolved urgent and high-priority system defects increased risk and contradicted earlier assertions that the agency would resolve urgent and high priority defects prior to deployment," GAO said in the letter.

GAO also questioned OPM's $421.6 million cost estimate for the RetireEZ project, saying the agency could not support that figure with a description of the system and methodology it used. GAO recommended OPM develop a revised cost estimate and enlist an independent contractor to validate its methodology. OPM also did not provide Congress with cost documentation or estimates, GAO added.

Meanwhile, OPM told Congress that it had implemented sound earned value management practices, which measure program progress by comparing the value of work accomplished to the amount of work expected to be accomplished. GAO said in its January report that because OPM changed its baselines under its EVM measurement, "the agency's EVM reporting did not reliably reflect program progress."

In a March 18 letter to acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, OPM Director Linda Springer said the Feb. 20 deadline for providing the status report to Congress was just five days before the launch of RetireEZ. "The challenging timing of this request necessitated that our responses were briefer than we would have preferred," Springer wrote.

Springer said OPM was preparing a more comprehensive response to GAO's report to submit to Congress on March 31. That report "will provide greater detail on OPM's progress in developing and implementing the new system, in addition to addressing the four recommendations in this particular GAO report," she said. OPM was unable to provide a copy of that report in time for this story's publication.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.