Written by John Hewitt Jones
The Government Accountability Office is set to investigate the recent move of the Thrift Savings Plan to a new online platform following calls from lawmakers for an investigation.
In a letter to lawmakers Aug. 8, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) congressional relations officer, A. Nicole Clowers, said the agency would consider a range of issues, including awarding the contract for revamp the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) user portal.
“The GAO accepts your request as work within its authority. At this time, we anticipate that personnel with the required skills will be available to initiate engagement in approximately 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 begin in three months.
News of the probe comes after House Democrats called for an investigation, after receiving a deluge of complaints from former federal voters.
After the website was launched in early June, lawmakers received complaints from voters experiencing difficulty accessing funds held within the TSP. Federal retirees at the time reported difficulties accessing their accounts and noted the incomplete transfer of beneficiary information to the new digital platform.
As of August 10, TSP had registered 1,965,831 successful configurations 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 connections using the new system.
“The transition was certainly more difficult for some participants than we anticipated, however, we handled business for millions of participants,” Weaver added.
Accenture Federal Services (AFS) won a contract, known as Converge, in November 2020 to “reimagine retirement services in the digital age” and improve the customer experience for TSP users.
The TSP serves 6.1 million federal employees and uniformed service members, managing a total of more than $644 billion in assets. The AFS contract includes an 18-month transition and four three-year option periods.
After the June rollout, users reported a number of issues with the online system, including being unable to access their accounts and being unable to reach the TSP’s helpline, known as from ThriftLine.
Some users had to wait weeks for a security code to be mailed to them in order to access the new platform. They also said they could only track the historical growth of their portfolio for a few months, whereas previously they could go back several years.
A Hill source speaking to FedScoop on condition of anonymity said the problems were exacerbated by user wait times of up to nine hours for the TSP’s hotline, known as from ThriftLine, and said there were multiple reports of help desk calls being disconnected.
A former federal government employee describing his experience at FedScoop on condition of anonymity said, “I realized there would be some chaos due to the new online procedures, but after a month when I started to call to clarify transfer procedures and the phone lines were still totally blocked, I was like a flashed bull with a red cape.
He added: “After being put on hold for the better part of an hour, the call was dropped. A call was dropped after the agent took me through third degree to check me out. The Thrift Plan isn’t alone in doing this, but the constant interruption with useless information was almost unbearable.
Thrift Savings Plan spokesperson Kim Weaver added that TSP deliberately did not transfer beneficiary information for approximately 150,000 participants due to data quality issues, but for those participants it had retained details of their previous beneficiaries and would have paid out funds under that designation if necessary.
She added that the lack of historical information for users on the new system was not a mistake. “Participants have access in their “My Account” to the daily balances as of June 1, the date of the transfer to the new accountant. They also have access to year-end sales through 2010,” she added.
Weaver also said TSP notified investors of the upcoming changes via email in April.
An AFS spokesperson referred FedScoop to the Thrift Savings Plan Investment Board for comment.
Click here to listen Thrift Savings Plan spokesperson Kim Weaver discusses TSP website issues on the Daily Scoop podcast earlier this month.