Internal Affairs Investigations:

Customs Service Needs to Better Manage the Investigation Process

GGD-89-43: Published: Feb 28, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Customs Service Office of Internal Affairs' policies and procedures for handling allegations of employee impropriety and employee background investigations.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of the Treasury's Office of Inspector General (OIG) was responsible for ensuring that Internal Affairs complied with established policies and procedures; (2) although procedures required documentation for each allegation Internal Affairs received, it did not document an allegation if the investigator determined that the allegation was nonspecific, incomplete, or frivolous; (3) lack of documentation precluded any assessment of the extent to which allegations went undocumented, the seriousness of the allegations, or the extent to which Internal Affairs notified OIG of direct allegations from individuals; (4) some documentation indicated that Internal Affairs failed to notify OIG of allegations involving senior officials; and (5) 27 of 41 cases completed prior to 1987 procedural changes were missing required documentation, while only 6 of 20 1988 cases were missing required documentation. GAO also found that: (1) Internal Affairs did 6,421 background investigations in 1987 and 5,690 in 1988, compared to 2,534 in 1986; (2) although a backlog of new employee investigations developed in 1987, Internal Affairs eliminated it by using overtime, modified procedures, and additional staffing; and (3) in 1988, Internal Affairs continued to have a backlog of between 3,500 and 5,500 employee reinvestigations, resulting from its practice of only completing reinvestigations on promoted or reassigned employees. In addition, GAO found that: (1) OIG had not done a complete quality assurance review of Internal Affairs since 1980; and (2) OIG relied on periodic meetings and case reviews to ensure the quality of Internal Affairs investigations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to Treasury's 31 U.S.C. 720 response, the Assistant Commissioner for Internal Affairs issued instructions requiring such documentation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Commissioner of Customs to require documentation acknowledging the receipt and disposition of all allegations of impropriety received by Internal Affairs.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Customs' Assistant Commissioner for Internal Affairs issued instructions requiring such documentation. Treasury's OIG completed an audit in August 1991 which includes recommendations on how Customs should improve documentation in case files.

    Recommendation: The Department of the Treasury's Inspector General should better ensure that Internal Affairs prepares and maintains required documentation in case files.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Office of the Inspector General

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Customs' Assistant Commissioner for Internal Affairs reiterated existing instructions. Treasury's OIG plans to monitor Customs' actions once its Office of Quality Assurance is fully operational. Treasury's OIG audit of Customs' Office of Internal Affairs was completed in August 1991. No problems were found regarding how Customs refers allegations of impropriety to OIG.

    Recommendation: The Department of the Treasury's Inspector General should better ensure that Internal Affairs refers immediately all allegations of impropriety concerning senior-level officials to Treasury's OIG.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Office of the Inspector General

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Treasury's OIG addressed background investigations as part of its audit done in August 1991. The OIG Office of Quality Assurance, which is operational, will also monitor Customs' background investigation program.

    Recommendation: The Department of the Treasury's Inspector General should better ensure that Internal Affairs makes background investigations as required by the Office of Personnel Management.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Office of the Inspector General

 

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