Audit Examines Government Background Check Contractors

Written By Thomas Ahearn

ESR NewsThe U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Office of Audits has conducted an ‘AUDIT OF THE FEDERAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES’ CASE REVIEW PROCESS OVER BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS’ to ensure government background check contractors meet contract requirements. The audit is available at http://www.opm.gov/our-inspector-general/reports/2014/audit-of-the-federal-investigative-services-case-review-process-over-background-investigations.pdf.

The performance audit of the Federal Investigative Services’ (FIS) background check process – which was conducted from August 26, 2013 to December 2, 2013 – determined that OPM “needs to strengthen its controls” over government background check contractors and the background investigation review process. The audit dated June 4, 2014 identified five areas requiring improvement:

  • 1. Background Check Review Process: Personnel Investigation Processing System (PIPS) event indicators were weak controls to ensure all background check investigative items had been reviewed and FIS did not have a control in place on auto-released Reports of Investigations (ROI) to verify background check contractors were conducting reviews on auto-released ROIs.
  • 2. Abnormal Number of Reviews: Two reviewers completed an abnormally high number of reviews on background check investigations in a short timeframe. For example, one reviewer completed 15,152 background check investigation reviews during a one month timeframe.
  • 3. Report of Investigations (ROI) Not Reviewed: Seventeen ROIs in an audit sample were not reviewed by government background check contractors prior to submitting them to OPM.
  • 4. Reviewer Training Documentation Lacking: Some government background check contractors were unable to provide support to show that 29 out of 100 reviewers and support personnel reviewed in the audit met training requirements.
  • 5. Oversight Controls over Government Background Check Contractors Need Strengthening: The audit concluded that FIS needs to strengthen their controls over the government background check contractors investigation case review processes.

The audit of government background check contractors follows several high profile cases of inconsistent or incomplete government background checks. As a result, the Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement (SCORE) Act will increase oversight as to how the United States government conducts background investigations and awards security clearances. A full text of the SCORE Act is available at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s1276/text.