SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
ADMINISTRATION'S PROCEDURES FOR
ALLEGATIONS IN REGION VII
We improve SSA programs and operations and protect them against fraud, waste, and abuse by conducting independent and objective audits, evaluations, and investigations. We provide timely, useful, and reliable information and advice to Administration officials, the Congress, and the public.
The Inspector General Act created independent audit and investigative units, called the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The mission of the OIG, as spelled out in the Act, is to:
Conduct and supervise independent and objective audits and investigations
relating to agency programs and operations.
Promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency within the agency.
Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in agency programs and operations.
Review and make recommendations regarding existing and proposed legislation and regulations relating to agency programs and operations.
Keep the agency head and the Congress fully and currently informed of problems in agency programs and operations.
To ensure objectivity, the IG Act empowers the IG with:
Independence to determine what reviews to perform.
Access to all information necessary for the reviews.
Authority to publish findings and recommendations based on the reviews.
By conducting independent and objective audits, investigations, and evaluations, we are agents of positive change striving for continuous improvement in the Social Security Administration's programs, operations, and management and in our own office.
Date: March 29, 2005
To: Ramona Schuenemeyer
Acting Regional Commissioner Kansas City
From: Inspector General
Subject: The Social Security Administration's Procedures for Addressing Employee-Related Allegations in Region VII (A-07-05-15014)
We conducted a review of the Kansas City Regional Office's (KCRO) handling of employee-related allegations. Specifically, the objectives of our review were to:
evaluate the adequacy of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) policies and procedures in Region VII for addressing employee-related allegations,
assess Region VII's compliance with these policies and procedures, and
determine whether Region VII referred all employee-related allegations that should have been referred to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
SSA receives various types of allegations related to its programs, the misuse
of Social Security numbers, and employee conduct. SSA receives allegations from
employees, the public, congressional inquiries, internal security reviews, and
the OIG. Allegations that involve actions on the list of alleged or suspected
employee criminal violations must be referred to the OIG. This list is attached
as Appendix D. Allegations concerning SSA employees are significant because
of the potential losses to SSA's programs and
the corresponding negative public impact. In determining the validity of allegations, SSA is required to obtain sufficient evidence to support or remove suspicion that criminal violations may have been committed. SSA's policy states:
"Prior to referral to the OIG, Office of Investigations Field Division, each potential violation and allegation must be developed by the field office, processing center, or other SSA office to the point where enough evidence has been secured to either remove suspicion or substantiate the violation."
In the KCRO, employee-related allegations are forwarded by OIG to either the Office of the Regional Commissioner (ORC) or the Center for Security and Integrity (CSI). The majority of allegations are referred to ORC. Only allegations involving security violations are referred to CSI, though ORC forwards most allegations to CSI for development. CSI is also responsible for supporting field office managers in developing potential fraud issues by using computer system analysis and providing other technical support. The ORC and CSI workflow processes are illustrated in Appendix C. The Center for Human Resources' Employee/Labor Relations Staff process adverse actions against employees.
We reviewed 15 employee-related allegations referred to the KCRO by OIG during Fiscal Years (FY) 2001 through 2003. KCRO stated that it did not receive any allegations from sources other than OIG. See Appendix B for the scope and methodology of our audit.
RESULTS OF REVIEW
For 12 of the 15 employee-related allegations we reviewed, the KCRO provided sufficient documentation to verify that KCRO properly addressed the allegations. However, for the remaining three allegations, there was insufficient documentation to ascertain whether these allegations were properly developed and resolved.
Additionally, of the 15 allegations reviewed, we found the KCRO did not:
Provide OIG the results of its review of two allegations within the required 90 day period.
Provide OIG the results of its review of two allegations.
Have a control system that included all employee-related allegations.
RETENTION OF CASE DEVELOPMENT DOCUMENTATION
KCRO does not have a policy on the retention of documentation related to allegations against employees. As a result, KCRO could not provide any development documentation for 3 of the 15 employee-related allegations we reviewed. In accordance with provisions of the Federal Records Act (FRA), we believe documents, such as those concerning employee-related allegations, constitute a specific class of records, which should be maintained in accordance with SSA record retention policies.
The KCRO should maintain sufficient evidence to document that employee-related allegations are properly handled and developed. The lack of documentation limits management's ability to readily determine whether appropriate actions were taken to resolve the allegations. Also, insufficient documentation hampers management's ability to identify recurring problems related to certain SSA locations or employees.
TIME REQUIREMENTS TO COMPLETE REFERRALS
The SSA component that receives an allegation referral from OIG is instructed to provide OIG with the results of its findings within 90 days. The results should explain what actions were taken on the allegation and also report any monetary recoveries or savings realized. We identified two allegations where the response to OIG exceeded 90 days because KCRO did not have procedures in place to handle and control allegations. These allegations were open for 96 days and 152 days, respectively. CSI requested an extension on one of these allegations because the employee responsible for the allegation resolution either did not receive the allegation or accidentally deleted it from her email prior to resolution actions.
For two other allegations, we were unable to determine whether KCRO responded to OIG within the required 90 days. KCRO provided documentation showing that the allegations had been developed, but could not provide documentation to show when the results were sent to OIG.
KCRO stated that it implemented procedures to handle allegations that specifically address the time frames for responding to OIG. Since the procedures were implemented after our audit period, we did not verify that the procedures ensured the time requirements were met. While we recognize that some allegations may require an extended period of time to develop, KCRO should monitor resolution time frames to ensure adherence to the required 90-day period or document why the 90-day time frame could not be met.
OUTSTANDING ALLEGATION REFERRALS
As of November 2004, KCRO had not provided OIG with the results of its findings on two allegations, although the allegations were open longer than 90 days. KCRO could not provide documentation to support the development of the allegations. Accordingly, we could not determine whether these allegations were properly investigated and whether one of these allegations, which may be potentially criminal, should have been referred to OIG's Office of Investigations (OI). KCRO should provide OIG with a response on these allegations and, if appropriate, refer the allegation that involves a potential criminal violation to OI.
RECEIPT AND CONTROL OF ALLEGATIONS
SSA's procedures require the Region to preserve records that adequately and properly document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the Agency and protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and persons directly affected by its activities. In addition, SSA's procedures require that control logs be retained for a two-year period. KCRO did not maintain a control log to track the receipt and disposition of employee-related allegations because there were no formal procedures in place to address allegations. As a result, we could not verify that the total number of allegations we reviewed represented the total population of allegations received during our audit period.
ORC staff currently log allegations into the Operations Paperless Tracking, Imaging and Control (OPTIC) system, which is used to track all correspondence received by the ORC. According to CSI staff, allegations sent directly to CSI would be logged into the OPTIC system and tracked in the same manner as allegations sent to ORC. Since OIG had not referred any allegations directly to CSI since August 2002, we did not verify that CSI followed this procedure. In addition, CSI's written procedures, which were developed in October 2003, do not require that allegations be entered into OPTIC. Neither the ORC, nor the CSI written procedures specify that control logs should be retained for two years. KCRO should include in its written procedures that allegations received from both OIG and other sources be entered into a control log that is retained for two years.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Our review found the KCRO generally provided sufficient documentation to verify that KCRO properly addressed employee-related allegations. However, we found that the KCRO's procedures could be improved to better ensure all allegations are recorded, developed, and resolved timely and referred to OIG as appropriate. Also, the procedures should ensure that adequate information is maintained to document the investigation and resolution of employee-related allegations.
Accordingly, we recommend the KCRO:
1. Implement an allegation control process that documents the receipt, development, and disposition of all allegations.
2. Monitor time frames for reviewing and resolving employee-related allegations to ensure that they are addressed within a 90-day period.
3. Provide OIG a response on the two allegations that remain open and refer any potentially criminal violations to OI.
4. Include in its written procedures that allegations from OIG and other sources be entered into a control log that is retained for two years.
In commenting on our draft report, the Regional Commissioner agreed with our recommendations. In response to our second recommendation, the Regional Commissioner requested that OIG formally acknowledge the receipt of the region's request for a time extension to resolve an allegation. In response to our third recommendation, the Regional Commissioner stated that the two open allegations were investigated subsequent to our draft report and the results provided to OIG on March 11, 2005. See Appendix E for the full text of SSA's comments.
The Regional Commissioner's suggestion that OIG formally acknowledge the region's request for a time extension to resolve an allegation was referred to the responsible OIG component for appropriate action.
Patrick P. O'Carroll, Jr.
APPENDIX A - Acronyms
APPENDIX B - Scope and Methodology
APPENDIX C - Workflow for Office of the Inspector General Allegation Referrals
APPENDIX D - Employee Violations
APPENDIX E - Agency Comments
APPENDIX F - OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
CHR Center for Human Resources
CSI Center for Security and Integrity
EXO Executive Officer
FRA Federal Records Act
FY Fiscal Year
KCRO Kansas City Regional Office
MOS Management and Operations Support
OI Office of Investigations
OIG Office of the Inspector General
OPTIC Operations Paperless Tracking, Imaging and Control
ORC Office of the Regional Commissioner
POMS Program Operations Manual System
SSA Social Security Administration
U.S.C. United States Code
Scope and Methodology
We reviewed employee-related allegations received by the Kansas City Regional Office (KCRO) in Fiscal Years (FY) 2001 through 2003. For this period, we identified and reviewed 15 allegation referrals from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Additionally, we selected 80 adverse actions processed by the Center for Human Resources' (CHR) Employee/Labor Relations Staff to identify severe actions that may be related to possible criminal violations. Based on our review of adverse action files, we did not find any potential criminal offenses that were not reported to OIG.
To accomplish our objectives, we:
Reviewed the following criteria:
Social Security Administration (SSA), Program Operations Manual System
SSA, Administrative Instructions Manual System
SSA, Operational and Administrative Records Schedules
Title 44 of the United States Code, Federal Records Act
Office of Management and Budget Circular A-123, Management Accountability and Control
Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 2635, Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch
SSA, Annual Personnel Reminders
Obtained a list of 15 employee-related allegations processed by OIG and referred to KCRO during FYs 2001 through 2003.
Interviewed officials within the Office of the Regional Commissioner (ORC), Center for Security and Integrity (CSI), Management and Operations Support, and CHR in Kansas City, Missouri.
Reviewed ORC and CSI documentation for the development of evidence related to allegations received from OIG.
We performed field work at the SSA Regional Office in Kansas City, Missouri, from July through November 2004. We determined that the data provided by the KCRO was sufficiently reliable to meet our audit objectives and facilitated the development of issues presented in the report. The entity reviewed was the KCRO under the Deputy Commissioner for Operations. We conducted our review in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Workflow for Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Allegation Referrals
LIST - EMPLOYEE POTENTIAL VIOLATIONS
(Program Operations Manual System, GN 04112.005D)
Employee violations include, but are not limited to situations in which an employee is suspected of willfully:
acting as an agent or attorney for prosecuting any Social Security claim before the Commissioner, while an employee;
disclosing without authorization any confidential information in violation of the Social Security Act or the Privacy Act of 1974;
obtaining or attempting to obtain confidential information under false pretenses;
making or causing to be made any false representation concerning the requirements of the Social Security Act or related provisions of the Internal Revenue Code;
asking for, accepting, or agreeing to accept anything of value from a third party in return for executing or influencing the performance of official duties;
participating in the planning or execution of any scheme or other activity under which a financial or other advantage improperly accrues or could accrue to any person or organization at the expense of the Government or parties with whom the Government may contract or otherwise deal;
stealing or otherwise illegally disposing of refund remittances, Government checks, cash, directly deposited funds, or other obligations;
illegally generating Social Security checks or depositing funds electronically to oneself or another;
stealing or mutilating Government records, or destroying or removing them without authorization;
violating conflict-of-interest laws as described in the Ethics in Government Act, the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, and the SSA Guide on Employee Conduct;
making or causing to be made any false statement or representation about wages, earnings, or self-employment income in connection with claims or the maintenance of earnings records;
making or causing to be made any false statement or representation of a material fact in an application for payments or for a disability determination, or at any other time for use in determining rights to payments;
concealing or failing to disclose a fact or event affecting initial or continued eligibility for payment;
furnishing or causing to be furnished false information about identity in connection with a claim, issuing a Social Security number, or maintaining an earnings record;
selling Social Security numbers/cards; or
unlawfully disclosing, using, or compelling the disclosure of a Social Security number.
Date: March 11, 2005
To: Inspector General
From: Acting Regional Commissioner
Kansas City Region
Subject: The Social Security Administration's Procedures for Addressing Employee-Related Allegations in Region VII (A-07-05-15014) - Response
We appreciate the efforts of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in reviewing the adequacy of the Kansas City Region's policies and procedures in handling employee-related allegations. We agree with the recommendations and will address each separately as outlined below:
Implement an allegation control process that documents the receipt, development,
and disposition of all allegations.
The Kansas City Regional Office has established written procedures to control Hotline Allegations and all appropriate staff have been trained.
Monitor time frames for reviewing and resolving employee-related allegations to ensure that they are addressed within a 90-day period.
The Kansas City Region makes every effort to resolve these allegations within the 90-day time period. However, there have been situations (i.e., the allegation deals with an employee issue as well as programmatic issues, such as misused funds) that cannot be processed to completion within the 90-day time frame. In those situations, we will contact OIG via email to advise that a time extension is needed along with the reason. Our response will address all issues at once.
Although not part of this review, we would like to recommend that the current Hotline Allegation process allow regions to receive an acknowledgement from the OIG Hotline when a request for a time extension is made. It has been our experience that requests for a time extension are not acknowledged.
Provide OIG a response on the two allegations that remain open and refer any potentially criminal violations to OIG.
Allegation #P100117 - investigation completed and the findings were that the allegations were unsubstantiated. OIG was notified as of March 11, 2005.
Allegation #P210454 - investigation completed and the findings were that the allegations were unsubstantiated. OIG was notified as of March 11, 2005.
Include in its written procedures that allegations from OIG and other sources be entered into a control log that is retained for two years.
The Kansas City Region's SOP has been rewritten and includes a control log for all allegations. The control on all allegations will be retained for a two-year period.
If you have any questions, please contact Dorothy Reed, Acting Director, Center for Security and Integrity, at 816-936-5555.
OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
Mark Bailey, Director, Central Audit Division (816) 936-5591
Shannon Agee, Audit Manager (816) 936-5590
In addition to those named above:
Tonya Coffelt, Auditor
Deb Taylor, Auditor
Cheryl Robinson, Writer-Editor
For additional copies of this report, please visit our web site at www.ssa.gov/oig
or contact the Office of the Inspector General's Public Affairs Specialist at
(410) 965-3218. Refer to Common Identification Number A-07-05-15014.
Overview of the Office of the Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is comprised of our Office of Investigations
(OI), Office of Audit (OA), Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General
(OCCIG), and Office of Executive Operations (OEO). To ensure compliance with
policies and procedures, internal controls, and professional standards, we also
have a comprehensive Professional Responsibility and Quality Assurance program.
Office of Audit
OA conducts and/or supervises financial and performance audits of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) programs and operations and makes recommendations to ensure program objectives are achieved effectively and efficiently. Financial audits assess whether SSA's financial statements fairly present SSA's financial position, results of operations, and cash flow. Performance audits review the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of SSA's programs and operations. OA also conducts short-term management and program evaluations and projects on issues of concern to SSA, Congress, and the general public.
Office of Investigations
OI conducts and coordinates investigative activity related to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in SSA programs and operations. This includes wrongdoing by applicants, beneficiaries, contractors, third parties, or SSA employees performing their official duties. This office serves as OIG liaison to the Department of Justice on all matters relating to the investigations of SSA programs and personnel. OI also conducts joint investigations with other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General
OCCIG provides independent legal advice and counsel to the IG on various matters, including statutes, regulations, legislation, and policy directives. OCCIG also advises the IG on investigative procedures and techniques, as well as on legal implications and conclusions to be drawn from audit and investigative material. Finally, OCCIG administers the Civil Monetary Penalty program.
Office of Executive Operations
OEO supports OIG by providing information resource management and systems security. OEO also coordinates OIG's budget, procurement, telecommunications, facilities, and human resources. In addition, OEO is the focal point for OIG's strategic planning function and the development and implementation of performance measures required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.