Delays in Investing Employee Withholdings and Government Contributions to the Retirement, Life Insurance, and Health Insurance Trust Funds

FGMSD-80-79: Published: Aug 21, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 21, 1980.

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GAO was asked to review allegations made in an article in a periodical of poor accounting controls over checks from Federal agencies to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for deposit in trust funds that OPM manages, primarily for the benefit of Federal employees. The article alleged that the deficient controls related to checks transmitting employee withholdings and agency contributions for retirement, life insurance, and health insurance trust funds. The charge was made that millions of dollars in interest income had been lost by the trust funds because checks were missing and deposits were delayed while the checks were recovered.

The allegations in the article dealt with conditions that existed at a time when checks were used exclusively to transmit deposits to the trust funds. The procedures that existed could have resulted in the alleged conditions. During that period, checks that were sent to OPM by Federal agencies had to be issued and controlled through elaborate and expensive procedures. Due to delays inherent in handling a large volume of checks, and because of procedural violations by agencies, processing and investment of the funds was delayed. However, since January 1978, Federal agencies have been required to transmit withholdings and contributions to OPM through bookkeeping entries rather than by check. The change in payment mechanism from check to journal voucher and the procedures for monitoring delays and estimating receipts and investments, have, and should continue, to reduce interest losses. GAO did not attempt to verify the losses cited in the article because they occurred under procedures that are no longer used.

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