Asset Forfeiture:

Improved Guidance Needed for Use of Shared Assets

GGD-92-115: Published: Jul 16, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Customs Service used shared forfeited assets, focusing on: (1) how selected state and local agencies use and account for shared assets received from DOJ and Customs; (2) whether applicable laws and program guidance establish use requirements for such assets and remedies for misuse; and (3) the nature and extent of program oversight and problems.

GAO found that: (1) state and local law enforcement agencies used shared assets for a wide variety of purposes; (2) the agencies generally complied with program guidance requiring that they use shared seized assets for law enforcement purposes; (3) it could not always determine compliance with program guidance; (4) DOJ and Customs do not always agree whether specific uses comply, despite the similarities in their program policies; (5) some state and local officials find the guidance vague and confusing, and they do not distinguish between the DOJ and Customs programs; (6) DOJ and Customs do not routinely monitor shared asset use and rely primarily on self-reporting from agencies to detect misuse; (7) DOJ and Customs acknowledge that guidelines should be clearer and stronger; and (8) DOJ is currently studying options to improve its program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice and Treasury issued revised asset sharing guidelines in accordance with the report's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that assets shared with state and local law enforcement agencies are used in accordance with program goals, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Customs should work together to develop mutually agreeable guidelines for asset sharing. The joint guidance should establish clear, specific definitions for concepts such as law enforcement purposes and supplanting of resources.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: United States Customs Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice and Treasury issued revised asset sharing guidelines in accordance with the report's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that assets shared with state and local law enforcement agencies are used in accordance with program goals, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Customs should work together to develop mutually agreeable guidelines for asset sharing. The joint guidance should establish clear, specific definitions for concepts such as law enforcement purposes and supplanting of resources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Both Justice and Treasury's revised guidelines include an annual audit and certification requirement for state and local law enforcement agencies that received sharing proceeds.

    Recommendation: DOJ and the Customs Service should jointly develop policies and procedures and assign responsibilities for federal oversight of asset sharing, using the options that DOJ is currently considering.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Both Justice's and Treasury's revised guidelines include an annual audit and certification requirement for state and local law enforcement agencies that received sharing proceeds.

    Recommendation: DOJ and the Customs Service should jointly develop policies and procedures and assign responsibilities for federal oversight of asset sharing, using the options that DOJ is currently considering.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: United States Customs Service

 

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