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Employee Debt: Opportunities Exist to Improve Timely Collection

OIG-22-1 Published: Mar 01, 2022. Publicly Released: Mar 01, 2022.
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Fast Facts

GAO is responsible for collecting employee debts in a timely manner, consistent with federal requirements. We found that, for the debts reviewed, the agency's Human Capital Office:

  • Missed opportunities to collect all or a portion of debts from final wage and leave payments made to separating employees
  • Didn't verify employees' ability to pay before approving repayment agreements
  • Didn't refer delinquent debts to the Treasury for collection within the mandated timeframes

We made 3 recommendations to address these issues.

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This is a publication by GAO's Inspector General that concerns internal GAO operations. This report addresses the extent to which GAO has established effective internal control to collect debts owed to the agency by current and former employees in a timely manner, and consistent with federal requirements and GAO policy.

What OIG Found

What OIG Found While GAO has established debt collection policies consistent with federal requirements, the agency's Human Capital Office (HCO) can improve timely collection of GAO employee debt.

  • HCO missed opportunities to collect debts from separating employees through internal offset. For example, HCO did not collect all or a portion of 13 of 21 debts we reviewed from final salaries and lump sum payments made to separating or separated employees because it lacks detailed procedures for doing so even when it would result in more timely collection of debts.
  • HCO approved repayment agreements without verifying financial ability to pay. Although required by GAO's debt collection policy, HCO has not verified employees' assertions that they are financially unable to repay debt in one lump sum. For example, HCO officials approved voluntary repayment agreements for 8 of the 23 debts in our sample without financial statements supporting their determinations. HCO accepted payment terms ranging from 12 months to up to 5 years, but officials were unable to provide analyses or justification on why the approved repayment plan terms were deemed acceptable.
  • HCO did not always meet mandated timeframes for referring delinquent debts for collection. Of the 16 delinquent debts in our review, only 7 debts were referred to the Department of the Treasury within the mandated timeframes. Despite HCO's key role in carrying out GAO's debt collection process, HCO lacks written processes or procedures for effective oversight of the status of aging and delinquent debts.

What OIG Recommends

OIG recommends that GAO take three actions to improve timely collection of employee debts: (1) update its debt collection standard operating procedure to specify when and how to use internal offset to collect debts owed to the agency more timely from separating employees; (2) establish a process and document procedures to carry out GAO's debt collection policy with respect to voluntary repayment agreements, to include requests for and documentation to verify the employee's ability to pay; and (3) establish written procedures to ensure delinquent debts are promptly referred to Treasury for collection proceedings. GAO agrees with the recommendations.


Full Report

GAO Contacts


Audit objectivesDebt collectionDelinquent debtFinancial managementHuman capital managementInternal controlsWagesCredit bureausPay periodAnnual leave