IRS Spent $1.1 Million on BlackBerries and Aircards It Didn't Use

May 28, 2013 - 2:30 PM

Blackberry Problems

In this Oct. 12, 2011, file photo, A Blackberry subscriber holds a Research in Motion Blackberry in Ottawa. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)

( – According to an audit report released in January 2013 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Internal Revenue Service spent $1 million in taxpayer dollars to purchase BlackBerry™ smartphones and wireless internet “aircards”— that subsequently went unused.

According to the report, “The IRS paid approximately $1.1 million during Fiscal Year 2011 for 13,878 aircards and 754 BlackBerry™ smartphones that were not used for periods of three months to one year.  [Moreover,] TIGTA identified 45 aircards and 68 BlackBerry™ smartphones that were not used at all for the entire 12 months of the fiscal year.”

In order to end wasteful spending on smartphone and wireless internet devices, TIGTA recommended that the IRS adopt six separate polices designed to save taxpayers an estimated $5.9 million over the next five years.

The six recommendations were as follows:

--develop a process to evaluate whether employees legitimately need these devices to conduct work

--identify Blackberry devices that had subsequently gone unused

--ensure manager approval prior to assigning a device to an IRS employee

--establishing pooling for aircards among those employees that do need them

--review those devices assigned to determine who might have received them without manager approval

--replace Blackberries with no data usage with traditional phones

Yet, of the six, only the first two were subsequently adopted—ascertaining which employees required the devices and which devices had gone unused.  The four other reforms were rejected by the IRS, which told TIGTA that it already had similar procedures in place.  Yet, TIGTA argued that these measures were insufficient to bring about more responsible use of funds.

For example, despite guidelines stipulating which IRS employees might receive the taxpayer-purchased devices, TIGTA estimated that 2500 employees had been provided with BlackBerries™ and aircards without managerial approval—which resulted in more than $950,000 in wasteful expenditures in fiscal year 2011.

TIGTA’s conclusion, as stated in its audit report to the IRS: “Based on the large number of unapproved and unused devices identified during the audit, TIGTA believes the IRS should take action to enhance its existing controls.”

Commenting on the report, Americans for Tax Reform’s Mattie Duppler said, “This isn’t just a problem with the IRS, we are seeing this problem across the government … I commend the administration [for efforts to identify government waste], but more needs to be done to bring about transparency.  And this problem isn’t ultimately going to be fixed by simply giving a recommendation to the IRS to act differently.  The IRS just isn’t going to change that way.”