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Inspector General's Assessment of Management and Performance Challenges


Bureau of Resource Management
Report
January 15, 2009

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Below is an abridged version of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report that highlights the Department’s most serious management and performance challenges for 2008, followed by a brief assessment of actions taken and actions remaining. In accordance with the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000, the full statement can be found in the Department’s 2008 Agency Financial Report on page 101 at http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/perfrpt/2008/.

Challenge: PROTECTION OF PEOPLE AND FACILITIES
OIG StatementThe Department has addressed security issues well at posts through new embassy compound construction and security upgrade programs, but needs to address these issues for facilities still awaiting such programs.
Action TakenEmergency Action Plans are being updated, for which the Department is using a computer based application and specific requirements to authorize evacuations.
Action RemainingThe Department needs to identify and fund interim solutions for various costly security requirements and address other agency personnel growth at posts with security challenges.
Challenge: INFORMATION SECURITY
IssuePassport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS) System Controls
OIG StatementThe Department needs to address a variety of control weaknesses in its Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS).
Action TakenActions to address the 22 OIG recommendations regarding PIERS are underway, including vulnerability and risk assessments.
Action RemainingFurther efforts at addressing control weaknesses need to be made – particularly regarding the prevention and detection of unauthorized access to passport and applicant information.
IssueUse of Laptops
OIG StatementThe Department must balance the operational need for mobile computers and other mobile devices used by personnel with protecting the information they contain.
Action TakenThe Department is developing security controls, policies and procedures to protect sensitive personal and program-specific information.
Action RemainingThe Department needs to finalize and implement security controls, policies, and procedures that keep pace with emerging technology.
Challenge: FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
OIG StatementThe Department should address a number of financial management weaknesses that have been identified repeatedly for several years, particularly regarding personal property, undelivered orders, the inadequacy of financial and accounting systems, and the lack of a managerial cost accounting system.
Action TakenThe Department has taken steps to improve some weaknesses previously identified, notably regarding information security and the launching of a new financial management system.
Action RemainingMany of the financial management challenges faced by the Department, including those that prevented the auditors from providing a “clean opinion” in 2007, have been addressed, resulting in an unqualified or “clean” opinion for 2008.
Challenge: CONTRACTING AND PROCUREMENT
OIG StatementThe Department needs to implement a number of previous OIG recommendations regarding contracting and procurement, including an increase in personnel responsible for procurement and acquisitions.
Action TakenThe Department conducted a comprehensive review of acquisitions management, identifying process improvement possibilities and areas of regulatory non-compliance, and instituted a 1% surcharge for all acquisition actions. This will enable the Acquisitions Office to operate more effectively, including the gradual assumption of responsibility for the local guard contracting program.
Action RemainingAcquisitions staff still needs to be increased, recommendations regarding contracting by the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations need to be implemented, and other procurement-related issues must be addressed.
Challenge: HUMAN RESOURCES
IssueGlobal Repositioning
OIG StatementIf the Global Repositioning Program (GRP) becomes regularized, it needs to take into account strategic planning mechanisms and be reduced in scope if budget and staffing shortfalls persist.
Action TakenThe Department has achieved GRP results quickly and reallocated positions across regional and bureau lines.
Action RemainingSufficient resources need to be devoted to making GRP work more effectively if the program continues.
IssueLocally Employed Staff
OIG StatementThe Department needs to resolve compensation, benefits, and pension issues regarding locally employed staff (LES).
Action TakenThe complexities of local labor laws have thwarted the Department’s efforts to create a universal, off-shore pension plan that addresses LES retirement needs, but some steps have been taken in individual countries.
Action RemainingMany issues have been addressed over recent years on a partial, country-by-country basis, but need to be addressed comprehensively on a worldwide basis.
IssueHuman Capital Planning
OIG StatementThe Department needs to address critical workforce planning and human resource management, given that 35% of its workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.
Action TakenThe Department is implementing a human capital plan to ensure continuous recruitment, training, deployment, and retention of qualified Foreign Service and Civil Service employees whose skills are aligned with evolving strategic objectives.
Action RemainingNone, although the human capital plan will need continuing high-level attention and periodic updating.
IssueHuman Resources Services Delivery
OIG StatementThe Department should address the problem of human resource services that are fragmented, duplicative, and inconsistent.
Action TakenBased on private sector and government best practices, the Department is undertaking an initiative to improve, streamline, and automate human resource services.
Action RemainingNone, except that the initiative will require ongoing support from the Department’s highest levels if it is to succeed.
IssueRetiree Services
OIG StatementThe Department should strengthen the Office of Retirement, principally by improving its operations to overcome a history of sub-par performance and outdated IT systems.
Action TakenThe Department has deployed the Employee Benefits Information System (EBIS) to streamline and accelerate the system for submitting Civil Service retirement packages.
Action RemainingEBIS has just been deployed and must be monitored closely. The Department plans to launch a Foreign Service version of EBIS in 2009.
Challenge: COUNTERTERRORISM AND BORDER SECURITY
OIG StatementThe Department should develop a flexible approach to deploying human and other resources to meet consular demands created by the 2009 onset of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and other burgeoning consular demands.
Action TakenThe Bureau of Consular Affairs has developed and is pursuing a strategic plan that projects necessary changes in the Border Security Program to meet anticipated changes.
Action RemainingIn addition to addressing consular workload requirements, the Department should address non-consular issues and their priority in the operations of border posts.
Challenge: PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
OIG StatementThe Department should further integrate public diplomacy as part of the total diplomatic effort rather than addressing it as a separate policy development process.
Action TakenImportant progress has been made in addressing this issue, including increases in public diplomacy personnel through hiring done as part of the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI).
Action RemainingFurther integration of public diplomacy within the Department and the interagency as well at overseas posts needs to occur, with particular attention to giving first-tour public diplomacy officers proper training and to strengthening public diplomacy capabilities at Caribbean posts.
Challenge: COORDINATING FOREIGN ASSISTANCE
OIG StatementThe Department should identify and rationalize redundant assistance programs supplied by State and USAID entities.
Action TakenThe Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance continues to develop its coordinating role for overseas foreign assistance activities.
Action RemainingSenior decision makers at overseas posts and in Washington should review both in-country and regional assistance programs to resolve problems of program redundancy.

 


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