Auditing and Financial Management:

Observations on Customs' Automated Merchandise Processing System

GGD-79-8: Published: Oct 24, 1978. Publicly Released: Oct 24, 1978.


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The Automated Merchandise Processing System is the Customs Service's approach to the problem of limited manpower to cope with an increasing imported merchandise workload. Under the system, import specialists are to determine which type of entries are low risk and can be machine processed and which require individual examination by a specialist.

For the first 6 months of 1978, only 30 percent of the entries were designated for machine processing, and 70 percent of all entries were examined by import specialists. Because they are accountable for errors, specialists tend to play it safe and designate only a small percentage of entries for automated processing. The substitution of statistical sampling techniques for specialist judgments would probably increase the number of entries processed by machine. Import specialists would be better utilized if routine duties associated with review of entries were delegated to lower grade personnel since import specialists spend between 150 and 200 staff years performing routine clerical duties. Subjective risk assessments have resulted in inconsistent entry processing, and selection criteria vary according to location and the nature of the commodity.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Office of Operations should proceed with a study of entry characteristics in order to use a statistical sampling system for referral of entries to import specialists and should direct that routine tasks associated with the processing of imports be performed by clerks rather than by specialists.

    Agency Affected:

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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