Justice's Antitrust Division:

Better Management Information Is Needed on Agriculture-Related Matters

GAO-01-188: Published: Apr 6, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2001.

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This report reviews the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division's overall policies and procedures for carrying out its statutory responsibilities, particularly as they apply to the agriculture industry. GAO describes (1) the Division's interaction with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) with regard to antitrust matters in the agriculture industry, (2) the number of complaints and leads in the agriculture industry received by the Division for fiscal years 1997 through 1999, and (3) the number and types of closed matters in the agriculture industry for fiscal years 1997 through 1999. GAO also describes the Division's policies for and procedures for investigating potential anti-trust violations. GAO found that the Division (1) maintains a cooperative working relationship with regard to anticompetitive matters in the agriculture industry with FTC and USDA, (2) received an estimated 165 complaints and leads related to the agriculture industry in fiscal years 1997 through 1999, (3) closed 1,050 matters during that period.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, the Antitrust Division modified CCTS to capture Standard Industry Classification code information. Consistent with industry-wide practice, on July 1, 2001, the Division started tracking industry information using the North American Industrial Classification System rather than the Standard Industrial Classification System.

    Recommendation: To ensure that (1) all complaints and leads are documented as required by the Division policy; (2) data are readily available on the final outcome of complaints and leads, the source of matters, referrals of matters to other complaints and leads; and (3) the Division has an accurate and reliable database that can be used to prepare meaningful management and budget reports, the Attorney General should direct the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust to modify the Correspondence and Complaint Tracking System (CCTS) to capture the related Standard Industry Classification code(s).

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Division mandated formal training for all employees who enter data into the CCTS. This training was developed and implemented to help ensure that (1) all citizen complaints received by the Division have been appropriately logged, and (2) any information giving the Division reason to believe that the antitrust laws have been violated has been appropriately investigated.

    Recommendation: To ensure that (1) all complaints and leads are documented as required by the Division policy; (2) data are readily available on the final outcome of complaints and leads, the source of matters, referrals of matters to other complaints and leads; and (3) the Division has an accurate and reliable database that can be used to prepare meaningful management and budget reports, the Attorney General should direct the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust to monitor compliance with the November 27, 2000, policy regarding documenting and tracking public inquiries.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2002, the Antitrust Division connected MTS and CCTS so that citizen complaints may be tracked from their receipt through any final related matter disposition.

    Recommendation: To ensure that (1) all complaints and leads are documented as required by the Division policy; (2) data are readily available on the final outcome of complaints and leads, the source of matters, referrals of matters to other complaints and leads; and (3) the Division has an accurate and reliable database that can be used to prepare meaningful management and budget reports, the Attorney General should direct the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust to link CCTS to the Matter Tracking System (MTS) to provide a mechanism to determine the source of the matter and the ultimate outcome of a complaint.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A letter from the Antitrust Division to GAO, dated June 4, 2001, states that the Division corrected the errors in MTS that GAO identified during its review. Additionally, the Division reported to GAO on August 19, 2004, that it continues to pursue improvements to the system and to the data it contains to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of this information.

    Recommendation: To ensure that (1) all complaints and leads are documented as required by the Division policy; (2) data are readily available on the final outcome of complaints and leads, the source of matters, referrals of matters to other complaints and leads; and (3) the Division has an accurate and reliable database that can be used to prepare meaningful management and budget reports, the Attorney General should direct the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust to correct the errors that have been identified in MTS as a result of GAO's work and verify that the MTS data are accurate and reliable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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