Customs' Office of Investigations Needs To Concentrate Its Resources on Quality Cases

GGD-79-33: Published: Apr 20, 1979. Publicly Released: May 7, 1979.

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The U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations conducts criminal, civil, and factfinding investigations of alleged violations of customs laws, and employs 650 agents empowered to carry weapons and make searches, seizures, and arrests. In recent years, its efforts have aimed principally at fraud, smuggling, hijacking, and neutrality and currency violations.

Most of the Office's funds are used on cases which yield no violations or deficiencies, partly because the Office accepts cases from other divisions regardless of the merits, and has not established a system of priorities. In view of this problem, the Office has made improvement of case quality its primary long-term objective and is developing quality measures and selection criteria, a major step forward if effectively implemented. The Office's accomplishment statistics, the major indicators used by Congress and the Treasury Department to evaluate the Office's effectiveness, have been meaningless and unreliable because of misleading reports, questionable accomplishments, and inaccurate data. For instance, reported seizure values include items returned to alleged violators, and cash revenue collections are sometimes overstated by more than 50 percent.

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