Information Technology:

Improvements Needed in General Automated Data Processing Controls at the National Finance Center

AFMD-85-38: Published: Jul 12, 1985. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1985.

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GAO reviewed the adequacy of selected general automatic data processing (ADP) controls at the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Finance Center (NFC).

GAO found that: (1) NFC did not have a formal disaster recovery and backup processing plan to ensure continued operations of its financial and personnel systems; (2) computer program documentation for the payroll/personnel billings and collections, and miscellaneous payments systems was not current or complete, which hindered system maintenance; (3) NFC programmers did most of the testing on their own program changes; and (4) some NFC personnel had unrestricted access to both data files containing payroll, financial, personnel, and other sensitive information and the programs used to perform the necessary functions of paying employees and collecting for services. GAO found that stronger ADP controls are essential at NFC because of the large volume of personnel and financial transactions processed annually and because of statutory requirements of the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act of 1982.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The NFC Director will report to the OFM Director, not the Assistant Secretary for Administration. The standards of procedures being used were observed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the NFC Director to report quarterly to the Assistant Secretary for Administration on the status of efforts to develop and implement independent testing standards and procedures for both program changes and new programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The NFC Director will report to the OFM Director, not the Assistant Secretary for Administration. The systems for payroll and personnel are completed. All other systems are in the 5-year plan for review. Work is presently on-going.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the NFC Director to report quarterly to the Assistant Secretary for Administration on the status of efforts to develop and implement a system certification schedule for all NFC systems, consistent with OMB Circular A-71, which would include review of the adequacy of program documentation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The NFC Director will report to the OFM Director, not the Assistant Secretary for Administration. Standards were developed, dated August 15, 1985, which addressed issues raised during the audit.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the NFC Director to report quarterly to the Assistant Secretary for Administration on the status of efforts to develop and implement program documentation standards and procedures consistent with FIPS guidelines.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The NFC Director will report to the OFM Director, not the Assistant Secretary for Administration. An alternate processing site will be selected in April or May of 1986. Some software tests have occurred and problems are being discovered.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the NFC Director to report quarterly to the Assistant Secretary for Administration on the status of efforts to develop and implement contingency plans consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-71, Federal Property Management Regulation 101-35.3 requirements, and Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) guidelines to ensure prompt recovery and restoration of NFC operations in case of a disaster or other unexpected events.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The NFC Director will report to the OFM Director, not the Assistant Secretary for Administration. Software problems in application have created difficulties. Access has been restricted to all persons within a branch; however, stricter controls are needed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the NFC Director to report quarterly to the Assistant Secretary for Administration on the status of efforts to develop and implement procedures that would allow programmers access to production programs only when circumstances warrant and on a controlled basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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