The Internal Revenue Service spent about $1.1 million in fiscal year 2011 on 754 BlackBerry smartphones and 13,878 wireless aircards that were not used for three months to a year, according to a new report.

The report, by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, found that 2,560 IRS employees may have been assigned an aircard or BlackBerry without required management approval. These devices cost the IRS more than $950,000 in fiscal year 2011, or about $4.8 million over five years. 

Overall, process improvements can result in cost savings totaling approximately $5.9 million over five years. As part of the audit, TIGTA identified 45 aircards and 68 BlackBerrys that were not used at all for the entire 12 months of the fiscal year.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS develop processes to periodically evaluate job series profiled for aircards and BlackBerrys and ensure that managerial approval of devices is based on business need. The IRS should also establish a pooling policy for aircards and review its inventory records to identify devices shown as assigned to employees without proper management approval, the report suggested. In addition, the IRS needs to develop a formalized process to identify BlackBerrys with no usage, the report recommended, and identify whether BlackBerrys with no data use could be replaced with a lower costing cellular telephone.

In response to the report, IRS management agreed with two of TIGTA's six recommendations.  IRS management agreed to establish a policy to periodically evaluate the job series profiled for aircards and BlackBerrys and agreed to formally document their process to monitor BlackBerrys with no usage. Although IRS management disagreed with TIGTA's recommendation to establish a pooling policy for aircards, they agreed to conduct a business assessment to determine if a shared aircard policy would be effective.

IRS management disagreed with TIGTA's three remaining recommendations, citing previously existing procedures. 

“We already have processes in place that address the majority of the concerns raised in your recommendations, and these new processes have been working as designed,” wrote IRS chief technology officer Terence V. Milholland. “As a result, we do not agree with the outcome measures described in the report, which do not take into consideration the IRS processes already in place.”

Based on the large number of unapproved and unused devices identified during the audit, TIGTA believes the IRS should take action to enhance its existing controls.

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