The Internal Revenue Service needs to do a better job of documenting whether it completed all of the necessary pre-screening steps before hiring new employees, according to a new government report.

The report, by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, noted that pre-screening of job applicants and conducting background investigations are the initial steps in the process of ensuring that new employees meet the IRS’s standards of honesty, integrity and security.

TIGTA conducted reviews at four of the nine branch offices of IRS Employment Operations to check on whether the IRS pre-screened applicants before hiring them. In nearly 77 percent of the cases reviewed by TIGTA inspectors, some of the documentation was missing to help determine whether all of the pre-screening steps had been completed. However, that does not mean the pre-screening steps were not performed, just that they weren’t fully documented, or the documents could not be readily procured.

“Our report does not indicate that the IRS hired applicants who were not suitable or that the steps were not completed; rather, we found that the documentation of some of the prescreening steps was unavailable,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “As IRS employees are entrusted with sensitive financial information contained in more than 230 million tax returns, the IRS must ensure that all appropriate pre-screening procedures are completed and documented."

The managers located in the IRS’s Employment, Talent and Security  Division, who have oversight of employment operations, noted that the documentation that was not included in the employees’ case files could be obtained from other sources as needed, TIGTA acknowledged.

However, the report noted that if the documentation is not located in the case file, an employee would have to repeat steps originally completed by another employee to provide support for managers or third parties responsible for oversight. In addition, repeating the steps after the employee reports for duty may not provide evidence that the pre-screening steps were completed before the employee’s enter-on-duty date. TIGTA recommended that the IRS develop policies to ensure that pre-screening actions are consistently completed and documented.

The IRS responded that it had implemented interim procedures on Dec. 19, 2011 and expects to complete the remaining corrective actions by March 12, 2012. Those actions will include implementation of interim steps to verify that all pre-screening activities are completed before an applicant reports for duty, and enhancements to the computer application it will use to document the completion of each pre-screening step.

“After a careful review of the report and its findings, we believe we can fully implement the recommendations to develop requirements and retention policies that ensure pre-screening actions are completed and fully documented in a consistent manner,” wrote IRS human capital officer Debra Chew.

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