Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) yesterday sent a letter asking the IRS to explain how it erased the hard drive of a former employee despite the existence of a court preservation order.

The preservation order related to the agency’s controversial, taxpayer-funded hiring of elite trial law firm Quinn Emanuel.

Despite its complete inexperience handling audits or taxpayer data, Quinn Emanuel was hired under a $2.2 million contract, an unusual decision which has prompted scrutiny from Chairman Hatch over concerns that the decision to hire outside contractors was both expensive and needlessly put taxpayer data at risk.

The deleted hard drive belonged to the agency’s former director of transfer pricing operations at the IRS Large Business and International Division, likely a key employee involved in the controversy. It is not known if there is any way to recover documents belonging to the employee.

In his letter, Chairman Hatch asked the IRS to make all employees responsible for administering the preservation order available for interview. Hatch also asked the agency to provide key information behind IRS procedure including:

  • What steps is the IRS taking to better maintain electronic records given the agency’s poor record preserving information?
  • What steps is the IRS taking to recover the contents of the destroyed hard drive?
  • Why does the IRS have a policy of destroying employee hard drives just one month after the employee leaves the agency?
  • Why was the hard drive destroyed in April 2015, seven months after it was scheduled to be wiped?

This is not the first time the agency has failed to preserve key information. The IRS also “accidentally” destroyed the hard drive belonging to Lois Lerner during investigations into the targeting of conservative groups. As many as 24,000 emails were lost forever when 422 backup tapes were wiped clean despite an agency-wide preservation order and congressional subpoena.

Once again, the IRS has failed to preserve key information in the face of an investigations into agency practices. This clearly speaks to a broader need to reform the agency and ensure it is serving the American people in a fair and impartial way.