Natural Resources and Environment:

Improvements Needed in Coast Guard's Computer-Based Pollution Incident Reporting System

Published: Jan 31, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1978.

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The Pollution Incident Reporting System (PIRS) is a computer-based system which was started in December 1971 to collect information on discharges of oil or hazardous substances reported to or detected by the Coast Guard and was later expanded to collect information on cleanup activities and penalty actions.

In a May 1977 memorandum, the Acting Chief of the Office of Marine Environment and Systems stated that, in many cases, the PIRS database did not contain current and accurate data. A major cause for the erroneous data is lack of adequate controls. Weaknesses were identified in controls involving: maintaining adequate documentation of system controls, counting and controlling records processed by the system, developing arithmetic totals to compare data input with data processed, using the computer to check the validity of data, maintaining an error log or computerized suspense file, operating a central control group to ensure separation of duties and to review input and output, and auditing of system development and maintenance by the agency's internal audit staff. The PIRS staff at headquarters should be directed to take action to correct these weaknesses.

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