Customs Service:

Office of International Affairs

NSIAD-97-146R: Published: Apr 25, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Customs Service's Office of International Affairs, focusing on: (1) OIA's overall mission and organization; (2) the nature and extent of OIA's activities; (3) OIA's relationship with other offices within Customs; (4) OIA's budgetary and staffing resources; (5) OIA's management and improvement efforts and system for measuring and evaluating its performance; and (6) other federal agencies' views on the training and assistance that OIA provides for foreign customs administrations in conjunction with U.S. international programs.

GAO noted that: (1) to help facilitate the legal flow of goods and persons across borders, OIA supports the development of uniform customs procedures worldwide and seeks to improve the effectiveness of foreign customs administrations, often in collaboration with other agencies; (2) OIA provides training and technical assistance to foreign customs administrations in areas such as import-export procedures, drug interdiction, and technology controls, and coordinates Customs' participation in international organizations such as the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Trade Organization; (3) OIA provides training and assistance both directly to host governments and in conjunction with other federal agencies; (4) from 1994 through 1996, OIA trained over 8,300 foreign customs officials and participated, on behalf of Customs, in 21 international organizations, including WCO; (5) OIA provides information and policy support to a number of offices within Customs; (6) OIA also draws upon the technical expertise and staff of other offices to conduct training abroad; (7) in fiscal year 1997, OIA's budget was $13.8 million and it had 83 staff positions, including 36 who directly provide training and technical assistance; (8) OIA receives funding for its training and assistance activities primarily through reimbursable agreements with host governments or other federal agencies; (9) in 1995, OIA reorganized, reducing management layers, cutting its support staff, and decreasing the number of organizational units; (10) OIA is currently developing a system to measure the performance of its programs; and (11) the federal agencies GAO interviewed that have worked in collaboration with OIA were generally satisfied with its training programs and interagency coordination efforts.

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