IRS Scandal and Proper IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) Planning

IRS Building in Washington

If there is one government agency that always seems to find itself embroiled in controversy; it is the IRS. And, like any good scandal, the agency’s most recent targeting scandal involves plenty of apparent cover-ups, red herrings, and lost information.

With each passing day, the probe into this latest IRS scandal reveals more and more questionable actions and failure-to-acts by the people in charge of our country’s financial data. Here’s the latest.

What Exactly is the IRS Email Scandal All About?

The latest scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service centers on the agency’s tax-exempt status department. The department is accused of applying additional and unwarranted scrutiny to the tax-exempt applications of organizations with known ties to the Tea Party between 2009 and 2011.

What makes this such an intriguing scandal is that Congressional Republicans are arguing that the head of the agency’s tax-exempt status department during that period, Lois Lerner, was acting under orders from the Obama Administration. Lerner has refused to testify during the Congressional hearings, making her email correspondence the only available records of what actually happened during those two years. The only problem? Those emails have disappeared.

The IRS claims that the emails disappeared after Lerner’s hard drive crashed in June 2011. After attempts to recover the data proved unsuccessful, the agency decided to destroy the device as per government protocols.

But, like any good scandal, that’s not the end of the story.

The IRS Prematurely Retired Data Storage Devices

According to U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, the IRS “did not follow the law,” which requires government agencies to keep email records and print out emails to protect against such a computer crash. Government agencies are also required to notify Ferriero’s office any time records are lost or destroyed and in this case, the IRS did not.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that the IRS was found to be prematurely retiring data storage devices in addition to the agency filling out disposal documents on devices that still existed. In fact, in a report filed by the Treasury Inspector General (TIGTA) in September 2013, it was revealed that the IRS retired 22 of 54 storage devices prior to the end of their service contract or they were migrated to a separate storage contract as part of the IRS’s efforts to consolidate data storage.

In addition, the IRS provided disposal documentation for four retired assets showing that these assets were “written off” because they could not be located during the inventory. But, as a result of subsequent inquiries by the TIGTA, the IRS confirmed that the “disposed of” assets still existed and took steps to correct the information in the agency’s IT asset inventory management system by placing the assets into an “in use” status.

What About Email Backups?

Interestingly enough, the IRS had a long-standing contract with the email archiving company, Sonasoft, so you would think that retrieving those lost emails would be as simple as putting in a call to the San Jose-based company, right? Unfortunately, that contract was abruptly canceled – just weeks after Lerner’s hard drive crashed and right at the time congressional investigators began looking into the IRS conservative targeting scandal.

To add even more questionable actions into the foray – the agency’s contract with Sonasoft was never mentioned during the testimony from IRS officials and no effort to restore a Sonasoft backup from their servers has been made.

What’s All This Have to Do With IT Asset Disposition?

One of the most startling and unsettling facts uncovered in the IRS email scandal is the fact that the country’s Internal Revenue Service utilizes sub-par IT asset disposition practices. The IRS’ servers store personal and financial information for every tax-paying American citizen and yet it doesn’t protect that data adequately enough, not when one considers that the agency “wrote off” two of its servers because they couldn’t be located during inventory. Then, to fix the problem, the agency simply changed the status of the missing devices in their inventory management system to “in use.” This is extremely dangerous and irresponsible behavior that could ultimately place a lot of Americans at risk should those servers fall into the wrong hands.

At Liquid Technology, we offer IT asset disposition that protects our clients and their customers. We use DOD-certified data destruction with fully-auditable reports and with our comprehensive chain-of-custody documentation; we always know where our clients’ equipment is throughout the entire disposition process.

Don’t let your company get embroiled in a scandal like the IRS – contact Liquid Technology today for best-in-class IT asset disposition. Call us at 800-797-5478 today.

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