Better Management Oversight and Internal Controls Needed to Ensure Accuracy of Terrorism-Related Statistics
GAO-03-266: Published: Jan 17, 2003. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 2003.
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In accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, the Department of Justice (DOJ) provides Congress and the public with an annual performance report. These reports serve as an important measure of DOJ's progress related to its strategic goals and objectives, including statistics on its Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Report. We were asked to review the accuracy of DOJ's terrorism-related conviction statistics. Among other objectives, in this report we (1) identify how DOJ develops its terrorism-related conviction statistics and (2) assess whether DOJ has sufficient management oversight and internal controls in place to ensure the accuracy of terrorism-related statistics included in its annual performance reports.
Beginning in fiscal year 2001, DOJ switched from using the FBI's terrorism-related conviction statistics to using those of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) for its annual performance report. This change was in response to concerns raised by a newspaper article's allegation that DOJ had inflated terrorism statistics in its Fiscal Year 2000 Performance report. It was also part of an effort to report conviction statistics that would be less likely to be misinterpreted, according to DOJ officials. The FBI historically classified more convictions than EOUSA as terrorism-related because it used a different classification system and included convictions obtained in international, federal, and state courts. EOUSA only included federal convictions. Our review of a sample of cases investigated and classified by the FBI as terrorism-related, including U.S. Attorney Office (USAO) cases covered by the article, found documentation to support the terrorism-related classification for these cases. As for the accuracy and reliability of EOUSA's terrorism-related statistics included in its annual performance reports, we found that DOJ does not have sufficient management oversight and internal controls in place, as required by federal internal control standards, to ensure the accuracy and reliability of its terrorism-related conviction statistics. At least 132 of the 288 USAO cases (about 46 percent) were misclassified as resulting in terrorism-related convictions in fiscal year 2002. Without the implementation of adequate management oversight and internal controls to ensure accurate and reliable terrorism-related performance outcomes of the U.S. criminal justice system will be limited.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In response to a recommendation we made in 2003 relating to the accuracy of DOJ's case classification system and reporting of terrorism-related conviction data, the Executive Office of U.S. Attorney's (EOUSA) took steps to require all U.S. Attorneys and First Assistant. U.S. Attorneys in all U.S. Attorney districts to oversee and validate the accuracy of case classification and conviction data entered in the Legal Information On-Line System (LIONS) and to reconcile summary information for data completeness prior to submission to EOUSA. Specifically, in April 2003 the EOUSA issued a memo to all U.S. Attorneys & First Assistant U.S. Attorneys requiring them to review and update the accuracy of the pending and closed terrorism & anti-terrorism-related matters and cases, including a review of each data element and program category codes displayed on the report per matter or case to ensure that the data is accurate and up to date. Additional requirements were put in place requiring the U.S. Attorney districts to periodically conduct such reviews. This was evident by the inclusion of a specific case certification requirement included in the United States Attorneys' Procedure (USAP) 3-16.130.001(M) on October 22, 2004, as well as copies of memorandums issued to USAOs in 2004 & 2005 requiring them to complete case certifications. The EOUSA has also scheduled a training session for its Docket clerks from October 31-November 2, 2006, that will address the requirements for entering data on terrorism/anti-terrorism-related matters/cases in LIONS. To address the limited entry validation checks for cases currently entered in LIONS, EOUSA plans to replace LIONS with a future enterprise-wide case management system that will strengthen and allow entry validation.
Recommendation: To improve the accuracy and reliability of terrorism-related conviction statistics reported by DOJ in its annual performance reports, the Attorney General, in accordance with federal internal control standards, should implement a formal system to oversee and validate the accuracy of case classification and conviction data entered in the Legal Information On-Line System by the various United States Attorneys Office districts. This system should entail edit checks of data entered into information systems, reconciliation of summary information to verify data completeness, and management review of output reports.
Agency Affected: Department of Justice