- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Everyone always wants the latest technology, but a government auditor said Tuesday that the IRS wasted millions of dollars on BlackBerrys and wireless modem aircards that employees don’t need or even use.

In 2011 alone the tax service paid $1.1 million for nearly 14,000 aircards and 754 BlackBerrys that weren’t used for at least three straight months, and 45 of those aircards and 68 BlackBerrys were never used the entire year, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration said in a report.

More than 2,500 employees may have gotten their technological gadgets without ever getting a manager’s approval, the auditor said.

The IRS agreed has agreed to review employees’ technology use, but rejected the idea of pooling aircards for workers to share.

IRS employees have been assigned 35,000 taxpayer-funded aircards and 4,400 BlackBerrys, at a cost of $11.4 million in 2011.

“The processes for assigning and monitoring the use of aircards and BlackBerrys are not effective,” the auditors said. “We found that assignment of these devices is generally based on job series classifications without adequately ensuring a business need exists.”

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Under an agreement between the IRS and a labor union, those employees who are eligible for aircards are set out in the rules, based on factors such as business travel and the need to work outside the office.

In its official response, the IRS said it believes that process is working and rejected the auditor’s calls to re-evaluate the situation.

The auditor said that the rules call for BlackBerrys generally to go to senior executives, but said many of them are held by employees outside that description. Of the 5,124 BlackBerrys IRS had in May 2012, auditors said 2,123 — 41 percent — were assigned to employees whose jobs didn’t automatically qualify, and of those, 1,000 employees didn’t get a manager’s approval for an exception to the policy.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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