IG: Missing documents plague IRS process for screening new hires

Monday - 3/19/2012, 3:29pm EDT

James Douglas, manager of the inspection of the employee pre-screening process, TIGTA

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A new inspector general's report finds missing documentation plagues the Internal Revenue Service's process for pre-screening new hires who are often entrusted with sensitive financial information.

The IRS is required to pre-screen all of its job applicants before they report for duty to determine an applicants' "initial suitability."

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, reviewed practices at four branch offices responsible for employment operations. However, in about 77 percent of the cases the IG reviewed, there was insufficient documentation verifying all of the required pre-screening steps had been taken.

IRS pre-screening can include a fingerprint check, citizenship verification and a tax check of the last three years, among other procedures.

The IG report doesn't necessarily indicate the agency hired employees without conducting the appropriate pre-screening measures, only that official documentation was often unavailable.

"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 J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, 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 report recommended that IRS develop policies for retaining documents in order to ensure pre-screening procedures are properly reported and catalogued. Debra Chew, the IRS chief human capital officer, in a response to the TIGTA report, said the agency could "fully implement" the recommendations surrounding retention policies.

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