U.S. Attorneys:

More Accountability for Implementing Priority Programs Is Desirable

GGD-95-150: Published: Jun 23, 1995. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1995.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) how the Department of Justice (DOJ) communicates national priorities to its 93 U.S. Attorneys; (2) how U.S. Attorneys establish their priorities in conjunction with law enforcement agencies; and (3) what measures, if any, DOJ uses to assess U.S. Attorneys' effectiveness in meeting national priorities.

GAO found that: (1) DOJ communicates broad, national law enforcement priorities to U.S. Attorneys through informal channels, such as congressional testimony, speeches, budget memoranda, and press conferences; (2) the U.S. Attorneys arrive at priorities informally, basing them on the Attorney General's priorities, their own experience and knowledge of the district, as well as input from other law enforcement agency staff; (3) the primary DOJ mechanism for assessing the activities of U.S. Attorneys includes a broad review of overall operations every 3 to 4 years; (4) DOJ is incorporating new methods for determining whether U.S. Attorneys are addressing national and local law enforcement priorities; (5) some existing measures of U.S. Attorneys' caseloads appear to be inaccurate due to the unreliability of some performance data; and (6) DOJ has initiated steps to improve the quality of its information.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EOUSA is developing performance indicators to meet requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and has stated that the standards adopted will be devised with an eye to improving the accuracy and reliability of case tracking and workload reporting systems. EOUSA continues to believe that it may not be feasible to measure the complexity of cases handled by U.S. Attorneys, however, it is collecting data on time spent by types of cases which may be an indication of complexity.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) to develop quality control measures to ensure the accuracy of the data to be collected on U.S. Attorneys' performance. EOUSA should give specific consideration to developing measures of case complexity to be used by all U.S. Attorneys.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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