IRS Prematurely ‘Retired’ Data Storage Devices

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prematurely “retired” computer data storage devices worth millions of dollars and filed “disposal” documents for computer hardware that still existed, according to an internal inspector general report reviewed by The Daily Caller.

IRS commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress that ex-official Lois Lerner’s emails were lost in a June 2011 computer crash and that her hard drive storing those emails was “recycled.”

The IRS also claimed that it lost emails from six other employees due to separate computer crashes. U.S. Archivist David Ferriero said that the IRS “did not follow the law,” which requires government agencies to keep email records, to print out emails in case there’s a computer crash, and to notify Ferriero’s office when records are lost or destroyed.

Koskinen confirmed that IRS employees’ emails during this period were saved on six-month backup tapes. But Koskinen could not explain why the IRS did not inspect Lerner’s backup tape before it was erased. “It would be difficult, but I don’t know why they didn’t do it,” Koskinen said. “I have no idea or indication that they did.”

The IRS, which spent $44.1 million in information technology (IT) hardware maintenance in fiscal year 2011 and $47.8 million in fiscal year 2012, closed out its six-year business relationship with the email archiving-and-recovery company Sonasoft in September 2011. Meanwhile, sophisticated data storage devices were being thrown away in the agency’s national IT offices in Maryland, even though the IRS was still paying for maintenance on the devices.

The IRS prematurely “retired” data-storage devices and filled out “disposal” documents for hardware that still existed and was supposed to still be in use, according to a Sept. 24, 2013 Treasury Inspector General (TIGTA) report entitled “Increased Oversight of Information Technology Hardware Maintenance Contracts Is Necessary To Ensure Against Paying for Unnecessary Services.”

“In another [maintenance] contract, 22 of 54 storage devices had been retired prior to the end of the service contract or were migrated to a separate storage contract as part of the IRS’s efforts to consolidate data storage,” according to TIGTA.

“When the contract was originally awarded in December 2009, it covered 54 storage devices with an average annual hardware maintenance cost of about $2.5 million,” according to the TIGTA report. “The current list, dated April 1, 2013, showed 32 storage devices requiring maintenance. The decrease in the number of storage devices is due to the retirement of those hardware assets or the migration to a separate storage contract as part of IRS’s efforts to consolidate and share storage across the IRS.”

The IRS also filled out disposal documentation for IT devices that still existed.

“In another contract reviewed, we compared the asset listing to the information technology asset inventory system and identified four retired assets,” the TIGTA report stated. “The IRS provided the disposal documentation for these four retired assets showing that these assets were ‘written off’ because they could not be located during the inventory. However, as a result of our subsequent inquiries, the IRS confirmed that the assets existed and took steps to correct the information technology asset inventory management system by placing the assets into an ‘in use’ status.”