Internal Revenue Service employment offices often don’t have records on hand to show that the rigorous screening required for agency job applicants was done before employees began working, according to an audit released Monday.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reviewed 662 hiring actions and found that in 507 of them— more than three-fourths— the employment office did not have proof that the entire required investigation had been completed into an applicant’s honesty, integrity, and potential security risks.
IRS job applicants, much like a taxpayer undergoing an audit, are subjected to a fine-toothed comb examination. This includes: a fingerprint check against FBI records; a check of whether applicants have complied with their tax obligations over the last three years; a check for whether a previous termination or other action would preclude their rehiring; verification of their citizenship and their eligibility to legally work in the United States; and, for males born in 1960 or later, whether they registered with the Selective Service as required. Additional requirements apply to higher-level positions.
The Office of Personnel Management and contractor investigators conduct most of the investigations.
The audit found that controls are in place for ensuring that applicants are suitable for employment, but that employment operations offices are inconsistent in keeping the records. Of the four employment centers studied, for example, two had complete or virtually complete records on fingerprint checks but the other two had such records in only about a quarter of the cases. And none had records on more than three-tenths of cases involving “unfavorable fingerprint results.”
“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,” said a statement from J. Russell George, the inspector general.
Agency managers told the auditors that even if an employment office lacks the needed records, that information could be gathered from other places. However, the report said that would duplicate work. “Additionally, 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,” it said.
The report said that since the audit, the IRS has taken steps to improve its record-keeping policies, including revised guidance on paper and electronic records on employee screening.