Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s exit processing and determine whether managers revoked facility access for separated employees and inactive contractors in a timely manner.
Separations are personnel actions, either voluntary or involuntary, that end employment with an agency, including resignations or terminations. For all separations and retirements, the manager must collect all accountable items, revoke facility access, and suspend computer access on the employee’s last day of work. The effective date of separation is the last day the employee is with the Postal Service. Generally, the applicable manager or supervisor is the one who submits separation actions, and the Human Resources Shared Service Center (HRSSC) processes them. The HRSSC is the national processing center for personnel actions including benefits, compensation, retirements, and separations. During fiscal years (FYs) 2019 and 2020, the Postal Service processed over 340,000 employee separation actions.
Additionally, Contracting Officers and their representatives (those responsible for oversight of Postal Service contracts) must verify that system privileges are removed, facility access is revoked, and collect any accountable items from contractors who become inactive. There were 6,500 contractors who became inactive during FYs 2019 and 2020.
In FY 2019, the independent auditor’s report on the Postal Service’s internal controls over financial reporting disclosed a significant control deficiency related to the timely revocation of finance systems access when employees separated. Postal Service management conducted quarterly testing to assess the impact of that deficiency and implemented additional controls to ensure timely revocation of system access. The independent auditor concluded that the Postal Service remediated this significant deficiency as of September 30, 2020. As a result of the Postal Service’s internal control testing and related remediation, we did not evaluate separated employees’ and inactive contractors’ system access as part of this audit.
Postal Service officials did not always submit employee separation actions to Human Resources in a timely manner or retain documentation supporting the collection of employee and contractor accountable items. Additionally, officials could not ensure that they revoked facility access for all separated employees and inactive contractors in a timely manner. In our review of FYs 2019 and 2020 exit processing activities:
- Local officials did not submit documentation for 53 of the 198 (27 percent) randomly selected separations we reviewed to the HRSSC until after the separation effective date. The 53 late separation notifications included 16 career employee separations, and 37 non-career employee separations. Of the 53 separations, 21 were terminations or removals submitted from three and 114 days after the effective date. Local facility management did not comply with policies and procedures requiring submission of separations in a timely manner due to other priorities. As a result, there was a delay in system access terminations that automatically occur after final processing of separation actions.
- Facility management did not always complete and retain documentation of clearance activities – including collection of employee identification badges, building keys, parking permits, and other accountable items – for 207 of the 231 (90 percent) randomly selected employee separations we reviewed. Responsible managers must complete and sign the required clearance checklist certifying that computer access has been revoked and that identification or building access cards and equipment have been collected for each separating employee. HRSSC’s internal policy did not require facility management officials to submit a completed and signed clearance checklist along with other required forms and supporting documentation
In addition, 97 of the 207 separated employees without a clearance checklist had an active badge as of their effective date of separation in the system for facility access. Local officials designated to issue and collect badges should deactivate them by updating the badge expiration date in the system when employees separate.
- For contractors, Contracting Officer’s Representatives did not maintain supporting documentation to confirm that 39 of 57 randomly sampled contractors who became inactive returned Postal Service-furnished property or validate facility access for 41 of 57 contractors was revoked. In addition, 11 of the 41 (27 percent) contractors still had an active badge in the system for facility access as of the date assignment with the Postal Service ended. In these instances, Contracting Officers did not confirm its representatives or designees retained proper clearance documentation.
As a result, the Postal Service had an increased risk that separated employees and inactive contractors could access Postal Service data and facilities without authorization. In addition, there was an increased risk that accountable items were not returned by separated employees or inactive contractors, potentially leading to loss or misuse of assets and information.
We recommended the Postal Service:
- Establish specific timeframes within which facility managers are required to inform the HRSSC about any separating direct reports and develop and implement a plan to increase compliance with the requirement.
- Update policy to require clearance checklists to be submitted to the HRSSC in addition to the required separation forms and supporting documentation.
- Reiterate to managers and supervisors their responsibility to use clearance checklists for separating employees and submit checklists to HRSSC in a timely manner.
- Conduct periodic checks of Contracting Officer’s Representative’s contract administration files to ensure they maintain contract documents associated with inactive contractors.
- Deactivate separated employees’ and inactive contractors’ facility access badges in the system.