The Neglected Government-Issued BlackBerry

Most people wouldn’t pay for internet service if they didn’t have a computer.  And most people wouldn’t keep the car insurance current on a rusted bucket of bolts that isn’t being driven.  But the IRS isn’t “most people.”  The latest report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reveals waste within the IRS that rivals situations like these.

According to TIGTA, the IRS has been wasting millions of dollars on BlackBerrys and aircards (which supply mobile internet access).  In 2011 the IRS spent about $8.5 million on 35,000 aircards and $2.9 million on 4,400 BlackBerrys.

The audit found that some of these devices were left completely unused for months.  It’s kind of inconvenient to have to carry around two phones all the time; I get that.  I imagine IRS employees discarding their BlackBerrys for their own phones (probably much cooler iPhones) because they are not allowed to use their government issue phone for anything other than business purposes.

The audit also revealed that some smart phones and aircards were given without obtaining proper permission/approval.  Besides managers and field officers, I just don’t see that there are too many IRS employees who would need these devices.  I can understand why a revenue officer may need mobile internet access and a smart phone.  For example, they do need to see when they’re getting a call about a wage garnishment, even if they’re on the road (and even if they’re not going to actually answer).  But most IRS employees are bean counters and the job of a bean counter is fairly sedentary.

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