General Accountability Office GAO

1 Weaknesses in critical internal controls
Risk of data errors, incomplete data fields, and ineffective monitoring

Although some elements of the data are sufficiently reliable for general use, weaknesses in OPM's internal controls for the EHRI payroll data will need to be addressed to enhance the reliability of other data elements. As shown in the table below, GAO's assessment of key internal control activities that are critical to ensuring the reliability of the EHRI payroll data found a number of areas where there is insufficient assurance that the control objective will be achieved. These weaknesses increase the risk of data errors, incomplete data fields, and ineffective monitoring of the EHRI payroll data. Unless OPM takes steps to correct these internal control weaknesses, it will be unable to fully leverage these data to meet its mission and allow others to make full use of these data for their research needs.

2 Data not widely available
Insufficient support for strategic and open data goals

The Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI) payroll data are not fully supporting the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) strategic and open data goals. This is because OPM has not taken the steps necessary to make the data widely available for use by other agencies and researchers. EHRI payroll data are intended to provide a centralized, standardized, and comprehensive source of pay and leave related data across the federal government. In this capacity, these data have the potential to provide a more efficient, cost effective, and precise data source for federal agencies and researchers who wish to assess human resources and policy decision making across the federal government. Because these data are not widely available, federal agencies and researchers must rely on other proxy sources for payroll data, which are more limited in the scope of analysis they can provide or the level of detail needed for data-driven human capital studies.


OPM is tasked with supporting federal agencies' human capital management activities, which includes ensuring that agencies have the data needed to make staffing and resource decisions to support their missions. The EHRI system is OPM's primary data warehouse to support these efforts. The payroll database-one of the four databases in the EHRI system- became operational in 2009. Payroll data provide information on federal employees' pay and benefits and how they allocate their time, as reflected in hours charged to work activities and use of leave. EHRI data are essential to governmentwide human resource management and evaluation of federal employment policies, practices, and costs. The ability to capitalize on this information is dependent, in part, on the reliability of the collected data.


GAO undertook this review to examine the extent to which (1) EHRI payroll data have supported OPM's strategic and open data goals and (2) internal controls are in place to assure the reliability of the data. GAO reviewed literature, interviewed officials and reviewed documents from OPM and the payroll Service Centers, compared OPM's data quality processes to GAO's Standards for Internal Control, and performed electronic tests of the payroll data.

The items above were selected and named by the e-Government Subgroup of the EUROSAI IT Working Group on the basis of publicly available report of the author Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI). In the same way, the Subgroup prepared the analytical assumptions and headings. All readers are encouraged to consult the original texts by the author SAIs (linked).