Transportation:

Transmittal of Comptroller General Decision on the Transportation Security Administration's Time and Attendance Approval System

GAO-03-532R: Published: Mar 11, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2003.

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This letter is to highlight internal control advice we offered in our December 2002 decision to four certifying officers of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Their July 24, 2002 letter had requested a Comptroller General decision related to certifying payroll payments. Pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 3529, the four certifying officers asked us whether the method of approving an employee's time and attendance (T&A) information in the T&A system, to which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is transitioning, meets the requirements of Title 6 of GAO's Policy and Procedures Manual for Guidance of Federal Agencies.

Based on our discussions with TSA officials, we determined that, in accordance with Title 6, first-line supervisors are approving T&A data. Because these supervisors will have personal knowledge of the time worked by the employees involved, they are not required to check the data against independent sources. We also determined that TSA will maintain actual original entry records along with a trail of all changes to data to support what we consider to be the immaterial rounding of employee time in and time out data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Finance Center and TSA's WebTA system accepts time in 15-minute increments. TSA adopted the following rounding rules for time in pay and leave: time worked or leave taken 7 minutes or less are rounded down to the nearest quarter hour, while time worked or leave taken 8 minutes or greater are rounded up to the nearest quarter hour. The WebTA system has been configured such that the rounding rules are a global setting across TSA, i.e., they cannot vary by organization or program.

    Recommendation: To better support a future request for certifying officer relief should the time and attendance (T&A) system generate an improper payment, TSA officials should implement the T&A approval system as described to GAO and build the control-related steps into it, including: Ensure the rounding rules for T&A data are consistently applied.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TSA implemented WebTA effective 8/22/2005, which automatically rounds all time entries to the nearest 15 minute increment. The default is to round up to 7 minutes down and 8 or more minutes up to the nearest 15 minute increment. In addition, the TSA Time and Attendance (T&A) handbook has been updated to include the rounding rules.

    Recommendation: To better support a future request for certifying officer relief should the time and attendance (T&A) system generate an improper payment, TSA officials should implement the T&A approval system as described to GAO and build the control-related steps into it, including: Communicate rounding rules for T&A time data to all affected staff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The TSA Time and Attendance (T&A) handbook now details the roles and responsibilities of first-line supervisors in T&A approval. Further, TSA certifiers received web-based training, as well as guidance that details their roles and responsibilities within the T&A system. TSA has also developed an additional training module for certifiers to expand on the initial training.

    Recommendation: To better support a future request for certifying officer relief should the time and attendance (T&A) system generate an improper payment, TSA officials should implement the T&A approval system as described to GAO and build the control-related steps into it, including: Specify in detail in TSA guidance the specific roles and responsibilities of first-line supervisors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During fiscal year 2006, the DHS Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) significantly enhanced the scope and focus of its FMFIA and OMB Circular No. A-123 assessment policies and procedures to include an evaluation of the reliability of entity level controls critical to the accuracy of T&A and other TSA financial data.

    Recommendation: To better support a future request for certifying officer relief should the time and attendance (T&A) system generate an improper payment, TSA officials should implement the T&A approval system as described to GAO and build the control-related steps into it, including: Conduct Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act reviews with a focus on ensuring that the new system is working as designed, the accuracy of the T&A data is maintained, and certifying officers are provided with assurances to this effect.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The T&A system was designed so that the system always stores the actual clock time of any time keeping transaction, even when the rounding rules are applied. As part of testing, comparisons were performed between actual transaction times and recorded transactions time to ensure proper calculation of time worked and to prevent the generation of improper payments.

    Recommendation: To better support a future request for certifying officer relief should the time and attendance (T&A) system generate an improper payment, TSA officials should implement the T&A approval system as described to GAO and build the control-related steps into it, including: Ensure that rounded and actual T&A data can be compared and tested once the T&A system is fully implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

 

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