Asset Forfeiture:

Noncash Property Should Be Consolidated Under the Marshals Service

GGD-91-97: Published: Jun 28, 1991. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1991.

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GAO reported on various aspects of the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and the Treasury asset forfeiture programs, focusing on: (1) compliance with the legislative requirement to develop and maintain a joint plan to coordinate and consolidate the post-seizure administration of properties seized for drug-related violations; and (2) the potential cost savings if all drug- and nondrug-related seizures were under such a program.

GAO found that: (1) little progress has been made in developing a plan to consolidate DOJ and Treasury post-seizure activities for properties seized for drug violations; (2) as of May 1991, no formal plans were under consideration, since both the U.S. Marshals Service's (USMS) and Customs Service's unilateral proposals for consolidation had been rejected by the other agency; (3) even though USMS and Customs had similar types of properties located in the same geographic areas, they independently managed and disposed of their seized assets and paid substantially different rates for similar services; (4) the government could save an estimated $2.5 million in program administration costs annually under a consolidated program from less duplication of effort, more streamlined operations, and lower vendor costs; and (5) although both agencies expressed concerns about consolidating the management and disposal activities related to their seized property programs, neither agency offered sound justification for not doing so.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO first reported asset forfeiture programs operated by the Departments of Justice and the Treasury as a high-risk area in 1990 because of shortcomings in the management of and accountability for seized and forfeited property and the potential for cost reduction through administrative improvements and consolidation of the programs' postseizure management and disposition of noncash seized property. GAO has subsequently reported that actions taken to address its recommendations have improved the management and accountability of seized and forfeited property. These actions include improved physical safeguards over drugs and firearms evidence, strengthened financial management and accountability, and planned opportunities for the two programs to consolidate and share a variety of services, including vehicle storage and warehouse facilities. Given these improvements and substantial progress toward establishing joint efforts to reduce costs and eliminate duplicative activities, GAO removed the asset forfeiture programs from the high-risk list in January 2003, and GAO considers these actions to be sufficient to close this recommendation as implemented.

    Matter: Congress should amend the consolidation requirement in 21 U.S.C. 887 to also include all noncash properties seized by DOJ and Customs for nondrug-related violations.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Given the actions taken by the Departments of Justice and Treasury to address GAO's concerns over the asset forfeiture programs' deficiencies that were listed in the status comments to closing the first recommendation, and the fact that the two programs were removed from the high-risk list in January 2003, GAO will also close this recommendation as implemented.

    Matter: Congress should: (1) designate DOJ as the lead agency in developing the consolidation plan; (2) designate USMS as the custodian of the consolidated properties; (3) require that the plan be developed within 6 months of passage of such legislation; and (4) require that the plan include specific implementation timetables and specific actions to effectively address existing DOJ program deficiencies.


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