- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lois G. Lerner’s hard drive isn’t the only technological problem at the Internal Revenue Service.

The tax agency’s inspector general has been warning for years of lost computer equipment, lax security that could place private taxpayers’ information at risk, and mishandled information technology contracts that wasted tens of millions of dollars.

The reports are being disclosed as the IRS says its technology budget is strapped for cash, one reason the agency didn’t have a backup system to store all of Ms. Lerner’s emails that are the subject of a congressional investigation.

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“We are provided significant amounts of money but significantly less than we need,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified to Congress last week as he faced scrutiny over Ms. Lerner’s emails from 2009 through 2011.

Many of those emails were lost when Ms. Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed.

The explanation about the need for more money didn’t sit well with Republicans.

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“That’s a very bogus argument,” said Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican. “It’s not just more money or more personnel. It’s probably smarter personnel in the administration of these programs. Maybe the government’s just not capable of [running] an IT system, particularly IRS.”

Agencies across the administration have a backlog of reports about technology problems, but those at the IRS have become well-known because of the congressional investigation.

The IRS has a backlog of up to $500 million in requested technology upgrades. Mr. Koskinen said thousands of employees are still using the Windows XP operating system, which Microsoft no longer supports.

“We’re trying to move on to Windows 7,” he said.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said technological problems don’t excuse what he called an IRS pattern of illegal obstruction and political bullying.

“The Archivist of the U.S. has testified that the IRS has not followed the law with its electronic record keeping.” he said. “We’ve also been aware of larger-scale issues with technology management at the agency. It’s not a problem of sufficient funds or resources. Instead, IRS has been a poor steward of taxpayer money in addition to the past targeting Americans for their political beliefs.”

Auditors also found that bad management or poor oversight, not money, sometimes is the problem.

A March 2013 Government Accountability Office report found that the IRS failed to follow through on one-fifth of 58 IT-related recommendations despite assurances that it had.

In some cases, the agency did not properly store passwords or used low-strength passwords.

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