Drug Control:

INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee Corruption

T-GGD-99-86: Published: Apr 21, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 1999.

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GAO discussed the threat of corruption to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and Customs Service employees along the Southwest Border, focusing on: (1) the extent to which INS and the Customs Service have and comply with policies and procedures for ensuring employee integrity; (2) an identification and comparison of the Departments of Justice's and the Treasury's organizational structures, policies, and procedures for handling allegations of drug-related employee misconduct and whether the policies and procedures are followed; (3) an identification of the types of illegal drug-related activities in which INS and Customs employees on the Southwest Border have been convicted; and (4) the extent to which lessons learned from corruption cases closed in fiscal years 1992 through 1997 have led to changes in policies and procedures for preventing the drug-related corruption of INS and Customs employees.

GAO noted that: (1) some INS and U.S. Customs Service employees on the Southwest Border have engaged in a variety of illegal drug-related activities, including waving drug loads through ports of entry, coordinating the movement of drugs across the Southwest Border, transporting drugs past Border Patrol checkpoints, selling drugs, and disclosing drug intelligence information; (2) both INS and Customs have policies and procedures designed to help ensure the integrity of their employees; (3) however, neither agency is taking full advantage of its policies and procedures and the lessons to be learned from closed corruption-cases; (4) the policies and procedures consist mainly of mandatory background investigations for new staff and 5-year reinvestigations of employees, as well as basic integrity training; (5) while the agencies generally completed required background investigations for new hires by the end of their fist year on the job, reinvestigations were typically overdue, in some instances by as many as 3 years; (6) both INS and Customs provided integrity training to new employees during basic training, but advanced integrity training was not required; (7) Justice and Treasury have different organizational structures but similar policies and procedures for handling allegations of drug-related misconduct; (8) at Justice, the Office of the Inspector General is generally responsible for investigating criminal allegations against INS employees; (9) GAO found that the Justice OIG generally complied with its policies and procedures for handling allegations of drug-related misconduct; (10) at Treasury, Customs' Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) is generally responsible for investigating both criminal and noncriminal allegations against Customs employees; (11) Customs' automated case management system and its investigative case files did not provide the necessary information to assess compliance with investigative procedures; (12) INS and Customs have missed opportunities to learn lessons and change their policies and procedures for preventing drug-related corruption of their employees; (13) the Justice OIG and Customs' OIA are required to formally report internal control weaknesses identified from closed corruption cases, but have not done so; (14) GAO's review of 28 cases involving INS and Customs employees assigned to the Southwest Border, who were convicted of drug-related crimes in fiscal years 1992 through 1997, revealed internal control weaknesses that were not formally reported; and (15) INS and Customs had not formally evaluated their integrity procedures to determine their effectiveness.

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