Management Report:

Improvements Needed in the Bureau of the Fiscal Service's Information System Controls

GAO-19-302R: Published: Mar 26, 2019. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 2019.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Dawn B. Simpson
(202) 512-9473
simpsondb@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Every year we audit the federal debt. (As of Sept. 30, 2018, it was a little more than $21.5 trillion.)

This year our audit found new weaknesses in the security of the information systems that the Treasury Department uses to keep track of and otherwise manage the debt. These new weaknesses, along with some unresolved earlier ones, could lead to an increased risk of unauthorized access to Treasury's systems and a disruption of key operations.

 

Image of computer code.

Image of computer code.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Dawn B. Simpson
(202) 512-9473
simpsondb@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

During GAO's audit of the Schedules of Federal Debt managed by the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service) for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2018, and 2017, GAO continued to identify deficiencies in Fiscal Service's information system controls that, along with unresolved control deficiencies from prior audits, collectively represent a significant deficiency in internal control over financial reporting. Specifically, GAO identified eight new deficiencies in information system general controls over key Fiscal Service financial systems that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. Two of these deficiencies were related to access controls and six were related to configuration management. In a separately issued LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, GAO communicated to Fiscal Service management detailed information regarding the eight new information system general control deficiencies and made nine recommendations to address them.

In addition, during GAO's follow-up on the status of Fiscal Service's corrective actions to address information system control deficiencies contained in GAO's prior years' reports that were not remediated as of September 30, 2017, GAO determined that corrective actions were complete for nine of the 25 open recommendations, and corrective actions were still in progress for 16 open recommendations related to security management, access controls, configuration management, and segregation of duties. In the LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, GAO communicated detailed information regarding actions taken by Fiscal Service to address the control deficiencies contained in GAO's prior years' reports that were not remediated as of September 30, 2017.

The potential effect of these new and continuing deficiencies on the Schedule of Federal Debt financial reporting for fiscal year 2018 was mitigated primarily by Fiscal Service's compensating management and reconciliation controls designed to detect potential misstatements of the Schedule of Federal Debt. Until these new and continuing control deficiencies, which collectively represent a significant deficiency, are fully addressed, there will be an increased risk of unauthorized access to, modification of, or disclosure of sensitive data and programs and disruption of critical operations. Therefore, these deficiencies warrant the attention and action of management. 

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO is required to audit the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government. Because of the significance of the federal debt held by the public to the government-wide financial statements, GAO audits Fiscal Service's Schedules of Federal Debt annually. As part of these audits, GAO performs a review of information system controls over key Fiscal Service financial systems that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt.

This report presents the deficiencies identified during GAO's fiscal year 2018 testing of information system controls over key Fiscal Service financial systems that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. This report also includes the results of GAO's fiscal year 2018 follow-up on the status of Fiscal Service's corrective actions to address information system control deficiencies contained in GAO's prior years' reports that were not remediated as of September 30, 2017.

What GAO Recommends 

In a separately issued LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, GAO made nine recommendations to address the eight new information system general control deficiencies related to access controls and configuration management. In commenting on a draft of the separately issued LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, Fiscal Service stated that it continues to work to address the 16 prior year recommendations that remained open as of September 30, 2018, and has established plans to address the nine new recommendations made in this year's report. GAO plans to follow up to determine the status of corrective actions taken to address these deficiencies and associated recommendations during its audit of the fiscal year 2019 Schedule of Federal Debt.

For more information, contact Dawn B. Simpson at (202) 512-3406 or simpsondb@gao.gov.

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