Poor Management Identified at the Bureau of Prisons

GGD-80-45: Published: Jun 6, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 1980.

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Because an investigation at a Federal penitentiary revealed serious business management weaknesses at the institution, GAO was requested to review how well the Federal Bureau of Prisons' institutions managed their procurement, financial, property, services, and personnel activities. The Director of the Federal Prison System is responsible to the Attorney General for the management and direction of the Bureau. Business operations are to be conducted in accordance with the accounting system approved by GAO as provided in the Bureau's policies. The Bureau's central office is responsible for developing, executing, and monitoring the Bureau's financial plans, controlling the funds it receives from its Salaries and Expenses appropriation and Building and Facilities appropriation, and operating the computerized financial management system. Each institution is responsible for its own business operations, including developing resource requirements, executing financial plans, controlling funds and property, disbursement, and cash transactions. The review was conducted at five of the Bureau's institutions in three of its five administrative regions.

The bureau has satisfactory policies for managing its business activities, but many were not adequately implemented. Its accounting system meets the GAO standards for internal management control, but its plans were not adequate for allocating and controlling resources, expenditures were not controlled, property was not adequately safeguarded, and audit programs did not result in adequate reviews or corrective action. Thus, the Bureau managers did not carry out all their duties and responsibilities as effectively as possible. Institutions disregarded Bureau policies by inadequately determining and justifying their needs for the personnel, goods, and services to be used in fiscal year 1978. The appproved plans could not be used for monitoring and controlling operations and for assessing management performance.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Department of Justice internal audit staff to assess, at appropriate intervals, the Bureau's progress in (1) better implementing its policies for annual and quarterly resource planning, and to report the extent to which Bureau managers develop comprehensive, realistic, and adequately supported resource plans, and use these plans for controlling their operations, and (2) controlling its expenditures by insuring that each institution follows its procedures for acquiring, using, and disposing of property, and to report their findings to him. Further, the Attorney General should require the Director to enforce the Bureau's policies for safeguarding property and to establish policies for the employees' use of that property, including as appropriate, any necessary reimbursement to the Government. The Director should also revise the Bureau's policies to establish control accounts in the general ledger for controlled noncapitalized property and for supply inventories so that independent total figures can be established against which the totals shown on the property and stock records can be reconciled; include a more comprehensive list of controlled noncapitalized property so that additional items can be brought under accountable control; and require that cost center managers maintain the same records as the storekeeper and report the same data to the accounting supervisor. In addition, the Attorney General should require the Director of the Federal Prison System to enforce and improve the Bureau's policies on conducting internal audits by requiring institutions to accomplish their internal audit schedules; developing more detailed audit programs to help ensure that auditors will conduct intensive enough audits; and revising the Bureau's policies to require that the responsible staff members must promptly correct the problems identified by internal audits and must sustain those corrections. Also, the Attorney General should direct the Department of Justice internal audit staff to assess, at appropriate intervals, the Bureau's progress in better implementing effective internal audits, and to report their findings to him.

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