Asset Forfeiture:

Need for Stronger Marshals Service Oversight of Commercial Real Property

GGD-91-82: Published: May 31, 1991. Publicly Released: May 31, 1991.

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GAO reported on various aspects of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) and the U.S. Customs Service's asset forfeiture programs.

GAO found that: (1) the failure of U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) districts to follow policy in performing such key program activities as those relating to high-value commercial real properties resulted in a weakened internal control environment; (2) the lack of Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) documentation of title information resulted in uninformed seizure decisions; (3) the lack of timely and accurate property information inhibited effective management and oversight by property managers; (4) USMS districts failed to prepare decision documents on significant properties; (5) the lack of professional appraisals inhibited effective disposal decisions; (6) uneven oversight left the program vulnerable to mismanagement; (7) USMS did not implement such important control techniques as review and reconciliation of invoices; (8) the USMS National Asset Seizure and Forfeiture (NASAF) program was understaffed and employees were undertrained; (9) USMS districts lacked adequate policy and procedural guidance regarding roles and responsibilities for seizure and management of commercial real property; and (10) regional oversight was inadequate to ensure districts' compliance with USMS policies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USMS recently made a number of changes to its 1984 memorandum of understanding to more clearly identify the responsibilities of each participating agency.

    Recommendation: To improve operations of the asset forfeiture program and better ensure USMS district office compliance with policies and procedures, the Attorney General should direct the Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture to meet with officials of all components participating in the DOJ asset forfeiture program to update and expand the 1984 memorandum of understanding to clarify the roles of the investigative agencies, USMS, and AUSA in pre-seizure planning. The updated memorandum should clearly delineate who is to obtain title search information and notify USMS of upcoming seizures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO concern was that the necessary information was obtained and considered before seizure. According to USMS, it is department policy to review all financial data prior to seizure. However, the agency does not believe it appropriate to include such information on the order for seizure because courts should not consider economic benefit when ordering seizures.

    Recommendation: To improve operations of the asset forfeiture program and better ensure USMS district office compliance with policies and procedures, the Attorney General should ensure that information such as title search reports, estimated market value, and potential government revenue is available for consideration in making the decision to seize property and is included on the order for seizure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USMS has worked with real estate management experts to develop new courses including one on monitoring real property contracts.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should develop a training program for NASAF personnel with real property management responsibilities to address duties and responsibilities, including commercial property management and oversight of property managers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During annual program reviews, particular attention is given to those areas previously identified in the USMS agency-wide risk assessment.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should link annual program review coverage to the USMS annual agency-wide assessment of program risk.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshal is not required to make a written response to program reviews. Recommendations that are not implemented while the review team is there are passed on to the USMS internal review group who follows up on them during their office-wide review.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should direct U.S. Marshals to: (1) make a formal written response to findings and recommendations included in program management reviews and specify what recommendations will be implemented, and how; and (2) set up a timetable for implementing the recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency follows up on recommendations through the USMS internal review process. In addition, copies of program management reviews are sent to both the NASAF regional office and the Chief, USMS Seized Asset Division.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should direct NASAF regions to follow up periodically on the progress of districts in implementing program review recommendations and report the progress to the Chief, USMS Seized Asset Division.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Guidelines were completed and a schedule was established for conducting contract compliance reviews.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should develop contract compliance review guidelines that include commercial property management contracts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In addition to the new course on monitoring real property contracts, meetings between district representatives and procurement will encompass oversight responsibilities.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should develop standards for the oversight of property managers by districts and require districts to perform oversight activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: It has always been the agency's policy that all property managers have written contracts. To emphasize the importance and increase the understanding of contracts, district representatives have met and will continue to periodically meet with procurement officials.

    Recommendation: The Director, USMS, should require that all property managers have contracts and that all contracts incorporate an effective oversight strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Marshals Service

 

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