Software Flaw Leads to $472 Million in Uncollected Debts by U.S. Treasury

The United States Department of the Treasury apparently failed to collect $472 million in debts owed to over 28 agencies due to a software flaw, according to an audit by its Office of Inspector General (OIG). The audit was initiated following a 2019 whistleblower referral from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency meant to protect federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing.

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The whistleblower alleged that debts owed to the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—worth $91.5 million—were not collected, due to defective software at the Bureau of the Fiscal Service. The IG’s audit, however, revealed a widespread problem that affected many more agencies, most of which were not informed of the uncollected debts by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service. Linda Chero, the bureau’s acting assistant commissioner for debt management services, told the IG’s office that the system error led to an inability to process debts from other federal agencies.

The software flaw has been fixed, according to Chero, but the bureau has only collected about $13 million of the outstanding debts—less than 3% of the total missed collections.