Deficiencies in HUD's Computer Tape Library

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-11-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                         DCOIUENT RESUEE
04536   [B0185075]
[Deficiencies in HUns Cohputer Tape Library]. November 30,
1977. 5 pp.
Report to illias A. edina, Department of Housing and rban
Development: Assistant Secretary for Administration; by Richard
J. oods, Associate Director, Community and cono,£c Development
Issue Area: Automatic ata Processing: Acquiring and Using
    Resources (102).
Contact: Community and Economic Development Div.
Budget Function: iscellaneous: Automatic Data Processing
          The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
uses about 26,000 computer tapes which aro stored and aintained
in HUD's tape library. The ntrnal.controls over these tapes
were reviewed to determine whether the tapes were adequately
secared and used.    indings/Conclusicis: The Office of ADP
operations needs to strengthen its control over the library ad
tapes. A significant number of tapes were held in the library
beyond the scheduled retention dates. This could have resulted
in additional costs because those tapes were unavailable fo.
reuse. Because of tape identification problems, librarians have
difficulty finding thousands of tapes, limiting or negating the
intended se of the tapes. About 4% of the apes say have ben
lost or    splaced. During the times librarians are not on duty,
other personnel can gain access to computer tapes if they
possess a computerized security card. It s difficult for
librarians to prevent other personnel fro4 entering the library.
kscomaendations: HUD should: make    physical inventory of the
computer tapes to correct incorrect listings used as controls
and continue the inventory on a periodic basis to retain a high
degree o accuracy, establish procedures to assure that tapes
are only retained for reasonable periods, and examine procedures
relating to access to the library to reduce the potential for
aisplacement o loss of tapes. (RBS)
.....                                                  -L-                                   :   *   .          ,   _la x          '

                                            UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
                                                             WASHINGTON, D.C..            20548

         EoPMENT      DIVISION

                                                                                                            NIV 30 1977
          -    Mr. William A. Medina
   O           Assistant Secretary for                                        .i.
               Department of Housing and                                                             .
                   Urban Development                                                  -

               Dear Mr. K:edina:

                    Our Office annually performs a.:rview-of-the financial
               statements of the Federal: Housing-Adm.inisti-atlon ;(FHA) to
               express an opinion on the reasonableness of igs f-inancial
               position.  During our audits we make considarable use of
               the Department of ousing and UrbanDevelcpent's-CHUD's)
               computers and tape files because a large partfof FHA's
               records are computerized. HUD uses about 26,200-computer
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               insurance operations. These tapes are stored and main-
               tained in HUD's tape library. During our fisa-l year 1976
               financial examination we reviewed HUD's internal ontrols
               over the tapes to determine whetter-the tapes were-
               aCzquately tilized and secured.

                     Our eview showed a need for -ie Office of ADP Operations
               to strengthen its control over the ibrary and tapes. In
               summ-Ly, our test showed that a significant number of tapes
               :;,re bei.ng heid in the library beyond scheduled retention
               dates.    This could result in additional cots to HUD because
               those tapes were unavailable for reuse.. Further, we found
               that because of tape identification problems, tape librarians
               may have trouble finding thousands of tapes, thus limiting or
               negating the intended use of the tapes. Our review also
               showed that about 4 percent of the tapes may be lost or mis-
               placed and that personnel other then librarians have access
               to the tape library.

                   We are recommending tat controls o'er the library and
              tapes be strengthened by reinstating the practice of taking
              a periodic invc:,tory of the tapes in the library, establishing
              more efective procedures for dealing with tape retertion
              periods, and improving procedures to limit access to the
              tape library.

      Each of the 26,000 tapes in HUD's tape library contained,
 among other information, a label identifying the type of
 data included on the tape and a retention period set by the
 users, after which, according to HUD officials, the tape
 should be scratched and reused. The label permitted the
 librarian to identify tapes needed in the ADP operations.

      The retention period recorded on each tape permits the
 most economical use of HUD's 26,000 tapes because unneeded
 tapes call be scratched at the proper time and reused. If
 the retention perids are not properly utilized, HEUD could
 unnecessarily purchase new tapes.

      An automated system is used                       to .. coiunt for and control
 the computer tape inventory. An                        ADP listing is made weekly
 of the inventory. It identifies                        each tape by number and
 shows the file identification on                       te label and retention
 date.   Prior to Febrauay i976, physical inventori.es comparing
~.computer tapes to the ADP listing were made semiannually to
 correct mislabeled tapes and correct erroneous entries found
 .on the Inventory listing.' However, this practice was
   _~t       i?.         o        n   t       ofn
                                              nfficials believed that the 'inventory
 listing was an adequate control over the computer tapes.
 Since the discontinuance of the physical inventory, computer
 personnel depend on the inventory listings as being accurate.

        We reviewed the dependability of the ADP listing as
  a control mechanism over the 26,000 tapes included in the
  library. Our test, a random sample of 225 tapes, included a
  comparison of data shown on the listing with daca shown on
-. he-.tapes .. found that for about 76 percert. of the tapes
  the labels or the retention date on the listing did not - i
  mat&-t-th-h--e-tries on--the tapes, the tapes were kept in the
  library eyond the retention date, there were no retention
  - aes--on- th-e-lising or tapes, or the tapes could not be
  located. The fcllowing chart shows the results of our test.

          -,.2   .   -       --   .   - -..

                                                            Error Rate
                                                           Projected to
            Deficiency                   Error Rate   (Total number of tapes)
      File identification on
      tape label did not match
      file identification on
      listing                               12.9              3,377

      Tapes kept beyond maximum
      rtsention date        _               23.6             6,179
      Retention data on tape
      label did not match
      cetention data on: listing         - :19.1             5,001

      No retention data     n        -      -
      either listing or tape              -16.0              4,189
      Tapes could not be 'ocated                4.4          1,152
            Sub-Total, deticiencies 76.0                    19,898

      F11   intification and
      retention data on tape
      label match data on listing           24.G             6,283
                         Total             -100             26,181
             Because the ADS listing is an essential part of the
       internal control of the library, we believe it is inportat to
       the efficient utilization of the tapes for the ADP listing to
      .,qurately account for the 26,18' tapes.     Since the AP listing
       is used to locae tapes;,'the 1ibr'ariians might find 1 ;very
       ---                _impossible to locate a tape when the label
       entry on'th"'ADP listinc; used to identify a tape differs from
     ..the.,label on,_thb_tape. Our test shows the probability that
       over 3,300 tapes were in this category. The problem of
       -retention of tapes appears to be worse, since over 6,Or0 tapes
       may have- been kept beyond th maximum retention date.
       Retention status of over 9,000 additional tapes is unclear
--   - be.cause--itho-r-retentior.   data on the tapes and listing differ,
      or there is no rentention data recorded. The degree of
      inaccuracy of the ADP listing clearly justifies the resumption
      of a periodic physical inventory of the tapes to establish and
      keep current the accuracy of the ADP listing.

             ADP officials informed us that determination of
       retention periods is essentially the responsibility of the
       user.   Because o past criticism from users with respect
       to scratching of omputer tapes, ADP Operations officials
       told us they were reluctant, at times, to scratch outdated
       tapes.   We believe that the user should determine within
       specific guidelines what the retention peric should be,
       however, ADP Oerations should be responsible for assuring
       that tapes are scratched and available for reuse within
       the established guidelines. This is especially important
       since our test shows that almost 24 percent of the tapes
       were kept in the library longer than the retention period
       established by the user and the retention status of an
       additional 35 percent is unclear.   We believe improvements
       are necessary to decrease the overretention rate.   Based
      -on the cost of computer tapes as of June 1977, it is
       possible that HUD could save about $49,000 if the 6,179
       tapes projected by our test as being overretained could be

              Further, our test showed that about 4 percent or over
       1,100 tapes could have been lost or misplaced. While we
      d     Q,_QtteE    e t tct determine the potential causes of the
       deficiency, we noted that HUD employs tape librarians to
           .................. ,.   ul=
                                    i      .LU.L tape ilorary auring
       normal business hours.         During other times librarians are
       not on duty and personnel can gain access to computer tapes
       if they possess a computerized security card.         We observed
       that the double doors between the computer hardware room
       and computer tape library were unlocked, Inaking it
       extremely difficult for the tape librarians to prevent
       personnel from entering the library.

--.  --We observed a number of individuals other than librarians
  in the tape library selecting and leaving with tapes, creating
   shrtuatiwhere critical compkiter tapes could be misplaced
  or lost.


            HUD's-inventory of about 26,000 computer tapes; represents
   a -substantial nvestmenC not only in dollars but also in
 -invalitablu     aiounts of program data.  A requirement for adequate
   control ove£ these tapes is obviously an essential part of
   HUD's computer operations.      We therefore, reommecnd that:

                -- a physical inventory be  ade of the computer tapes
                   to correct th- ADP listing used as a control over
                   these tapes and that such an inventory be continued
                   on a periodic basis to rcain a high degree of
                   accuracy of the listing,

                -- procedures be established to assure that computer
                   tapes are onlr retained for reasonable periods
                   and thereafter made available for reuse, and

                --current procedures relating to access to the library
                   by individuals other than librai:ans be examined-
                   with the objective of reducir,- the po t ential for
                   misplacement or loss of computer tapes.

      We would appreciate being advised of -any actions you take
 or plan to te   with regard to the matters discussed in-this
 report. Should you wish to discuss these matters in more-detail,
 we would be pleased to meet with you or members of your staff.
 We appreciate the cooperation given our representatives during
  this examination.               :

-rAd--'~              "~ .   .    .       /eSo~inrely-
                                       ......            yours,._

                                           Richard J. Wo s-
                                           Associate Director

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