Private security guards protecting the Social Security Administration were found napping, watching television, chatting with co-workers, talking for hours on the phone and failing to examine identification badges at checkpoints, according to a report.
The report, by the agency's office of inspector general, details several concerns about guards employed by a private security firm that provides security services at federal installations across the Washington area. The company says it has made changes to protective services at the SSA headquarters in suburban Baltimore and disputes some of the conclusions published in the report released last week.
According to a Washington Post article, between January and August 2010, auditors observed several guards assigned to fixed posts not checking identification badges, "dozing off" at their posts and "loitering at posts involved in personal conversations." During a weekend spot check, a guard was found watching a small television under a desk; guards assigned to roving patrols were observed not providing foot patrols, according to the report.
"Guards not complying with post orders as required by the contract could compromise SSA's physical security," the report said.
The report says that agency officials also complained about a high volume of telephone calls made to guard posts. Telephone logs from May 1 to June 11 found 227 calls lasting more than 20 minutes and 23 calls lasting one hour or longer; 69 calls were made overnight to the posts, leading investigators and agency officials to conclude the calls "were not of a business nature."
The report comes at a time of increased threats against administrative law judges, the report says, who settle disputes about Social Security benefits. They were targeted at least 50 times during the latest six-month reporting period - up significantly from numbers collected between 2002 and 2005, according to the Association of Administrative Law Judges.
Threats against SSA employees generally are also on the rise, jumping from 897 in fiscal 2007 to 2,336 last year, according to the inspector general's office. About 13 percent of 2,100 employees quizzed by the IG said they'd been threatened at work in the past three years - half of them more than once.