Computer programs correctly handle most unemployment benefit claims and tax statements, but should be replaced
Oregon Employment Department (Employment) computer systems handle routine unemployment claims accurately. Systems also process most employer quarterly unemployment tax returns appropriately. However, due to system limitations, Employment staff must identify and manually correct some unemployment claim errors. In addition, some unemployment tax returns bypass automated routines that provide needed scrutiny to detect and correct errors.
These computer programs are inflexible, poorly documented, and difficult to maintain. Considering these factors, Employment should take steps to replace them with more robust and maintainable computer code.
Computer security problems increase risk that data could be compromised
Coordinated use of multiple security components is necessary to protect the integrity of computer systems and their data. Although Employment management and the state’s data center have done much to protect Employment’s computer systems, improvements are needed.
Areas of most concern include ensuring users have the appropriate level of access to computer programs, monitoring actions of users having the most powerful access to systems, and addressing state data center security weaknesses we identified in previous audits.
Processes to better control changes to computer code are needed
Our 2003 and 2012 audits noted problems managing programming changes to these systems. These conditions remain largely unchanged, and increase the risk that programmers could introduce unauthorized or untested changes to the system.
Although these weaknesses are long-standing, Employment managers and staff recently began work to resolve them. They currently have a project to acquire a software solution that could significantly enhance their ability to address many of the identified problems.
Disaster recovery capability is greatly improved, but Employment should ensure plans and processes are complete
Responsibility for recovering the use of computer systems in the event of a disaster is shared with the state data center where these computer systems are hosted. In 2014, the data center entered into an agreement with the state of Montana to place copies of Oregon’s computer systems and data inside Montana’s data center.
This innovative approach to disaster recovery significantly improves Employment’s ability to resume operations in the event of a disaster but additional work is needed to ensure these systems and data are secure and can be made fully operational when needed.
We recommend that management take steps to improve processes for detecting and correcting unemployment tax return errors, improve system documentation, resolve security weaknesses, and fully develop and test disaster recovery procedures.
The agency’s response to the report is included at the end of the audit report.
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