Federal Agency To Spend $1.7 Million On Cell Phones It Won’t Use


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The Department of the Interior has more than 1,500 unused cell phones, and will spend more than $1.7 million in the next three years unless it changes its cell plans and how it keeps track of mobile devices.

The Office of the Inspector General revealed in a report Wednesday that the Interior Department doesn’t keep track of smartphones and tablets and has already wasted “tens of thousands of dollars on unused mobile devices. Assuming the bureaus continue with the current cellular plans for the next three years, spending on unused mobile devices would exceed $1.7 million,” the report states.

The OIG reviewed the four bureaus of the Interior Department that use the most mobile devices — the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Analyzing six months of activity between Oct. 2014 and April 2o15, the investigation discovered that each of those four bureaus alone spent $50,470 per month. Over a year, that adds up to $600,000 spent on 1,557 unused phones and tablets, according to the report.

Since the investigation only covered four of the DOI’s nine bureaus, the agency is likely wasting quite a bit more. “Based on the scope of our review … we believe that the amount of overspending and number of unused devices department-wide is certainly higher,” the report states.

Compounding the issue, the Interior Department also does not have adequate security on their tablets and smartphones, leaving them vulnerable to hackers and viruses. “We found that some of DOI’s mobile computing devices do not have proper security configurations, which could result in unauthorized access to Government systems and data by cybercriminals,” Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Kendall said in a letter with the report.

To stop overspending on mobile devices, the Interior Department will have to adjust its contracts with carriers. Interior Department employees and contractors can use either Apple or Android devices.

The Government Accountability Office revealed in May 2015 that agencies across the government were not keeping track of mobile devices, and provided recommendations for reducing wasteful spending. The Inspector General’s report suggests the Interior Department implement those recommendations.

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