The Government Accountability Office is set to investigate the Thrift Savings Plan’s recent move to a new online platform following calls from lawmakers to conduct a probe.
In an Aug. 8 letter to lawmakers, Government Accountability Office (GAO) congressional relations leader A. Nicole Clowers said the agency would review an array of matters including the award of the contract made to revamp the user portal for the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
“GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority. At the current time we anticipate that staff with the required skills will be available to initiate an engagement in about three months,” Clowers wrote. According to the watchdog, the investigation will be led by Managing Director, Information Technology and Cybersecurity Nicholas H. Marinos and will start in three months.
New of the probe comes after House Democrats called for an investigation, after receiving a deluge of complaints from former federal employee constituents.
Following the website launch at the start of June, lawmakers received complaints from constituents experiencing difficulties accessing funds held within TSP. Federal retirees at the time reported difficulties accessing their accounts and reported the incomplete transfer of beneficiary information to the new digital platform.
As of Aug. 10, TSP has recorded 1,965,831 successful set-ups of the new MyAccount login system for the online platform, TSP spokesperson Kim Weaver told FedScoop. TSP has so far registered a total of 10,165,717 logins using the new system.
“The transition was definitely more difficult for some participants that we anticipated, however, we have been transacting business for millions of participants,” Weaver added.
Accenture Federal Services (AFS) in November 2020 was awarded a contract, which is known as Converge, to “reimagine retirement serves for the digital age” and improve the customer experience for users of the TSP.
The TSP serves 6.1 million federal employees and members of uniformed services, managing a total of more than $644 billion in assets. The AFS contract has an 18-month transition and four three-year option periods.
Following the June rollout, users reported a number of issues in relation to the online system, including being unable to access their accounts and being unable to reach the TSP telephone helpdesk, which is known as ThriftLine.
Some users had to wait weeks for a security code to be delivered by mail in order to access the new platform. They also reported only being able to track the historical growth of their portfolio for a few months where previously they were able to go back multiple years.
A Hill source speaking to FedScoop on the condition of anonymity said issues were exacerbated by user wait times of up to nine hours for the TSP telephone helpdesk, which is known as ThriftLine, and said there were multiple reports of helpdesk calls disconnecting.
One former federal government employee describing his experience to FedScoop on the condition of anonymity said: “I realized there’d be a certain amount of chaos due to the new online procedures but after a month when I started calling to clarify the transfer procedures and the phone lines were still totally clogged I was like a bull flashed with a red cape.”
He added: “After being on hold for the better part of an hour the call was dropped. One call was dropped after the agent put me through the third degree to verify myself. The Thrift Plan is not the only one that does this but the constant interruption with useless information were almost unbearable.”
Thrift Savings Plan spokesperson Kim Weaver added that TSP deliberately did not transfer beneficiary information of roughly 150,000 participants because of data quality issues, but that for those participants it had retained their prior beneficiary details and would have paid out funds under that designation if needed.
She added that the lack of historical information for users on the new system was not an error. “Participants have access in their ‘My Account’ to daily balances beginning on June 1, the date of transfer to the new recordkeeper. They also have access to year end balances back to 2010,” she added.
Weaver said also that TSP informed investors of upcoming changes by email in April.
An AFS spokesperson referred FedScoop to the Thrift Savings Plan Investment Board for comment.
Click here to listen to Thrift Savings Plan spokesperson Kim Weaver discuss TSP website issues on the Daily Scoop Podcast earlier this month.