Legislation has been introduced for the second time to establish an inspector general to oversee the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
The bill is called the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Inspector General Act (H.R. 1416) and was introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). It states that it would “create new accountability mechanisms at FRTIB [the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board]” and would do so by amending the Inspector General Act of 1978 to add an inspector general to the FRTIB.
“I am deeply concerned about the widespread problems with the TSP’s online system,” Norton said. “I hear frequently from constituents about many problems with the system after last year’s platform change, including discrepancies in account balances, difficulties accessing accounts, lost beneficiary information, and hours-long wait times for customer service. I will continue to demand immediate fixes to the problems, but we need to understand how this debacle occurred and to create new accountability mechanisms at FRTIB, which is why I introduced my bill to establish an inspector general.”
Launch of New TSP Website Led to Problems
Norton’s statement and bill reference the complete overhaul of the TSP website and online system last June. The updates included a replacement of FRTIB’s core record-keeping system, re-platforming the TSP customer service contact center technology, re-platforming of “My Account” and the TSP Agency/Payroll portal, and the introduction of more online services, features, and security standards. New features such as the TSP mutual fund window and mobile app were added as well.
Problems arose though after the new system went online, driven primarily by a surge of calls to the TSP’s customer support line and a new online account setup process.
A status update presented at the latest FRTIB monthly meeting in February showed that many of the original problems have been resolved and the whole process is running much more smoothly. Call volume, for example, is back to a more normal level and are usually answered in less than a minute.
Despite the optimistic report, some FedSmith readers continue to voice frustration with problems they encounter in the comments on various articles we have posted on the TSP. Apparently Congresswoman Norton’s office is still hearing some complaints too, noting that some of her constituents continue to experience problems which led her to reintroduce the legislation.
Norton previously introduced the bill last September. She also has sent letters to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), the agency that oversees the TSP, demanding answers to what was being done about the various problems with the new website. She even threatened a Congressional hearing about the situation.
GAO Investigation of TSP Website Problems Underway
Norton also asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate what she described as “widespread problems with the new Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) online system.” GAO agreed to conduct the investigation, and it is now underway. Regarding the scope of the investigation, GAO said:
To address Congress’ request and federal employees’ concerns, we plan to review the federal government’s actions to purchase, launch, and oversee the commercial services contract for the new modernized TSP system. Among other things, contract oversight involves clearly communicating government needs, matching resources to those needs, and monitoring the performance of the purchased service or product. Having contract oversight ensures that services and products are working as intended and any identified issues are mitigated.
However, federal employees who may be frustrated with the situation with the TSP should not expect to see a report from the GAO anytime soon. The agency said in a recent statement that it will likely be early next year before it publishes the findings from its investigation of the new TSP website.