U.S. Customs Service:

Office of Investigations Case Management Problems

GGD-99-121: Published: Jul 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether the Customs Service's Office of Investigations (OI) follows its case management policies and procedures. GAO visited two Special Agent in Charge (SAC) offices to determine whether: (1) agents were entering statistics in the case management database; (2) first-line supervisors were reviewing investigative case files quarterly; (3) agents completed reports documenting their opening reports of investigation on time; and (4) the two SAC offices were maintaining and storing their case files appropriately.

GAO noted that: (1) in the New York and Chicago SAC offices, many agents were not entering statistics, such as arrests, seizures, and convictions, in the electronic management database as required by Customs' policies and procedures; (2) further, many first-line supervisors were not providing evidence of investigative case file quarterly reviews; (3) most agents were not completing opening reports of investigation within 10 days after an investigation was initiated as required; (4) also, some investigative case files that GAO requested could not be located; (5) since 1995, Customs' Office of Internal Affairs, Management Inspection Division (MID) reported these same findings repeatedly in their reports examining individual offices; and (6) however, MID did not routinely summarize the case management problems or make recommendations on how OI should correct the problems agencywide and prevent them from happening in the future.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Customs' 31 U.S.C. 720 response states that Customs has implemented the Self-Inspection Program to provide a comprehensive mechanism for management oversight. Each organization is to identify systemic problems. MID will also perform independent inspections. According to GAO's Liaison at Customs, Ms. Brenda Smith, "At the direction of the Commissioner, Management Inspection Division (MID) has implemented the U.S. Customs Service, Self-Inspection Program (SIP) which provides a comprehensive mechanism for management oversight of programs and processes, including the core area of 'case management.' The SIP will require all first line field office managers to assess compliance with existing policy and to semi-annually certify the assessment with respective Asst. Commissioners. Organizations are responsible for analyzing SIP results and addressing systemic problems. MID also reviews offices on a regular cycle to identify programmatic and internal control weaknesses, and reports to appropriate senior management with recommendations for corrective actions."

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Customs should direct MID to routinely summarize its findings relating to major organizational units within Customs to identify systemic problems and make appropriate recommendations to correct them.

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


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