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News Release

Computer Firms Win Government Contracts To Develop A System To Process Annual Report Filings

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA) has awarded two contracts to national computer firms to competitively develop its new Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Filing Acceptance System -- known as EFAST.

National Computer Systems, Inc. of Iowa City, Iowa, and Wang Government Services, Inc. of McLean, Va., are expected to develop fully functional minimum-capacity systems during the base period. The development contracts, awarded Sept. 28, will end Sept. 15, 1999.

When the firms have completed their “small scale” system assignments, PWBA will evaluate which system most fully meets the federal government’s needs and then will exercise the first option period of the contract for one of the two contractors -- either National Computer Systems or Wang Government Services -- to “scale-up” its system and process Form 5500 Annual Reports for five years. The scale-up period is set for Sept. 16, 1999 until July 31, 2000.

The federal government uses the information provided by employee benefit plans in the Form 5500 Annual Reports in a variety of ways. Filed annually by employee benefit plans, the information will be available to the regulatory agencies which administer various sections of ERISA -- the Labor Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and, on request, to employee benefit plan participants.

Since 1976 the forms have been processed in IRS service centers which provided copies of the forms and data tapes to the regulatory agencies responsible for administering ERISA. In the last few years, the cost of processing the data to the agencies has been increasing. In these times of reducing budgets, the agencies can no longer afford to pay to enter the data in the computer by hand.

The new EFAST will receive two major types of input from the plan filers:

· Paper filings that range in length from a single page to several hundred pages; and

· Electronic filings which must contain the same information that the filer would submit if providing the material in a paper filing.

The contractors will develop an integrated, imaged-based work flow or process control system using the latest proven technology appropriate to the work of this contract. It is hoped the system will expedite the efficient processing of all forms in conjunction with the requirement to create digital images of each form for data entry, data capture, search, retrieval and archiving purposes. The contractors are expected to use automated data capture technology, when applicable, as well as digital imaging, in initial processes for document analysis and data entry.

The contractors will receive Form 5500 filings, process the data into machine-readable format, conduct specified edit tests for validity and completeness, correspond with filers whose filings fail one or more edit tests, attempt to perfect the data using filer responses, and, finally, provide the data to the federal government.

Many aspects of the filing process are expected to benefit from the use of advanced technologies. The scanning of paper returns and data capture will minimize the number of processing steps and manual errors associated with processing paper returns. “It was time for us to upgrade our technology capabilities to meet the challenges of the new millennium,” said Alan D. Lebowitz, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Programs, PWBA. “We are hoping this more user- friendly electronic filing program will encourage more employee benefit plans to file their plan information with us electronically.”

The contractors will process all structured Form 5500 return and schedule fields so that a comprehensive and complete data set is constructed. They are expected to design a system with the necessary flexibility to accommodate any additions, modifications or deletions deemed necessary by the federal government if initiatives and/or regulatory or legislative changes warrant such changes. They also are expected to:

  • design a system capable of processing and storing data in different reporting formats corresponding to different plan years;
  • write image folders for all Form 5500 series reports and their follow-up correspondence to a cost-effective media (primary storage);
  • back up to a second media stored off-site (backup storage);
  • establish procedures for cost-effective storage and retrieval of image files;
  • retrieve and deliver image folders in response to periodic government requests during the period in which the image folders are stored at the contractor’s site;
  • store all image folders generated during the period of this contract for the four end users, the Labor Department, IRS, PBGC, and the Social Security Administration;
  • require EFAST system output data in two formats: image folders and structured data records.

On a regular basis, the contractor is expected to deliver images of the annual reports to the end users, as well as computer readable data that has been extracted from the images using optical character recognition.

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Internet. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202.693.7773 or TTY 202.693.7755.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Contact Name:Sharon Morrissey
Phone Number: 202.219.8921

Employee Benefits Security Administration
October 9, 1998
Release Number
USDL: 99-01