Uncertain Benefits From Expanded Rotation System for Customs Inspectors at Buffalo/Niagara Falls

GGD-83-19: Published: Oct 25, 1982. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the expanded rotation system for inspectors which was recently initiated at the U.S. Customs Service Port of Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York. GAO was specifically asked to: (1) determine whether the goals of enhanced inspector integrity and proficiency are valid and practicable; and (2) evaluate the system's effect on employee morale.

To achieve the goals of enhanced inspector integrity and proficiency, inspectors at the Buffalo/Niagara port are rotated among the inspection sites without distinction between the two cities. Previously, rotation routinely took place within the cities. In discussions with the work force and supervisors, GAO learned that inspection functions at both cities are similar and, thus, rotation offers little opportunity for increased proficiency. In addition, high-level supervisors told GAO that integrity at the Buffalo/Niagara port was not a problem, but that the port-wide rotation system was instituted as a preventive measure. GAO found that, while these goals are laudable, the benefits are intangible. However, according to agency inspectors, the integrity issue has resulted in employee dissatisfaction and deteriorating morale. GAO noted that the practice of swapping work assignments among experienced inspectors at the Buffalo/ Niagara port mitigates the effects of the port-wide rotation system. GAO found that it is uncertain whether the stated goals can be achieved using the system. Under these circumstances, GAO concluded that management's decision to continue with the expanded rotation system cannot be measured objectively.

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