The FBI Has Improved Its Fingerprint Identification Service

GGD-83-78: Published: Aug 19, 1983. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined: (1) the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) justification for temporarily suspending fingerprinting identification service provided to banking institutions and State and local employment and licensing agencies; and (2) whether a user fee, initiated in October 1982, adequately covered FBI costs to provide the service.

GAO found that service was suspended on October 1, 1981, to banking institutions and State and local employment and licensing agencies, because the processing time for fingerprint identification requests submitted by Federal agencies and State and local criminal justice organizations had doubled between October 1977 to October 1981. This increase was mainly caused by staff decreases and a high employee turnover rate. The FBI objectives in suspending service to some organizations was to reduce processing times for criminal justice users and to allow FBI time to develop a user fee system and to reinstitute service with reduced processing time for all users. GAO found that these objectives were achieved. FBI lifted the suspension as planned on October 1, 1982, restoring the suspended services and initiating a user fee system. Federal agencies and State and local criminal justice agencies do not pay the fee. During the first 6 months under the user fee system, the processing time was approximately the same number of workdays for all users as it had been in 1977 and is still well below the FBI service goal. GAO found that the cost estimates used to determine the user fee appeared to be reasonable. The user fee will be reevaluated annually because the workload and personnel ceilings could change and automation could improve processing time.

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