GSA’s Robotic Process Automation Program Lacks Evidence to Support Claimed Savings

Why We Performed This Audit

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) program was first introduced as an initiative within the GSA Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) in January 2018. GSA formalized its RPA program in June 2019 with the goal of using RPAs (commonly referred to as “bots”) to perform routine tasks, allowing federal employees to spend more time on non-routine tasks that require human judgment. Bots are rules-based software that simulate human actions on a computer, such as copying data, filling in forms, signing into applications, and analyzing data.

This audit was included in our Fiscal Year 2021 Audit Plan to evaluate: (1) GSA’s claim that its RPA program reclaimed more than 240,000work hours annually and (2) the program’s internal controls. Our audit objective was to determine whether GSA effectively uses bots to free up work hours and achieve cost savings.

What We Found

GSA lacks evidence to support its claims that its RPA program is generating savings. We found that GSA is not verifying the actual work hours saved with end-users of its bots. Because of this, GSA’s assertion in its Fiscal Year 2020 Agency Financial Report that its RPA program reclaimed more than 240,000 work hours annually was inaccurate and unreliable. We also found that GSA is not tracking the costs associated with its bots, which precludes GSA from determining whether the bots are generating cost savings and a return on investment.

What We Recommend

We recommend that the GSA Chief Financial Officer:

  1. Establish a performance evaluation process for its bots to ensure they are performing as intended and that the RPA programis achieving its goals. As part of this effort,the OCFO should develop objective and auditable measures and metrics that support the work hours saved by bots, as described in the RPA Program Playbook.
  2. Track the costs to develop each bot to allow the RPA program to develop objective statistics, such as return on investment.

The GSA Chief Financial Officer acknowledged our finding and recommendations. The Agency’s comments can be found in their entirety in Appendix C

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