Customs Service:

Inspectional Personnel and Workloads

GGD-98-170: Published: Aug 14, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1998.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed certain aspects of the Customs Service's inspectional personnel and its commercial cargo and passenger workloads, focusing on: (1) the implications of any differences between the cargo and passenger inspectional personnel levels at selected airports and seaports around the United States and those determined by Customs to be appropriate for these ports (assessed levels); and (2) any differences among the cargo and passenger processing workload-to-inspector ratios at the selected ports and the rationales for any significant differences in these ratios.

GAO noted that: (1) it was not able to perform the requested analyses to identify the implications of differences between assessed and actual inspectional personnel levels because, as GAO reported in April 1998, Customs had not assessed the appropriate inspectional personnel levels for its ports; (2) in that report, GAO determined that Customs does not have a systematic agencywide process for assessing the need for inspectional personnel and allocating such personnel to commercial cargo ports; (3) Customs also does not have such a process for assessing the need for inspectional personnel to process land and sea passengers at ports; (4) while Customs uses a quantitative model to determine the need for additional inspectional personnel to process air passengers, the model is not intended to establish the level at which airports should be staffed, according to Customs officials; (5) Customs is in the early stages of responding to a recommendation in GAO's April 1998 report that it establish an inspectional personnel needs assessment and allocation process; (6) Customs officials GAO interviewed at air and sea ports told GAO that the current personnel levels, coupled with the use of overtime, enabled the ports to process commercial cargo and passengers within prescribed performance parameters; (7) the inspectional personnel data that GAO obtained for the selected ports showed that at the end of fiscal year 1997, the personnel levels at these ports were at or near the levels for which funds were provided to the ports; (8) GAO was also not able to perform the analyses to identify workload-to-inspector ratios and rationales for any differences in these ratios because it did not have a sufficient level of confidence in the quality of the workload data; (9) GAO identified significant discrepancies in the workload data it obtained from Customs headquarters, a Customs Management Center (CMC) and two ports; (10) data from the New York CMC indicated that these airports processed about 1.5 million formal entries alone, almost 100,000 entries more than the number headquarters had for all entries at these ports; (11) workload was only one of several factors considered by Customs in the few assessments--which focused on its drug smuggling initiatives--completed since 1995 to determine its needs for additional inspectional personnel and allocate such personnel to ports; and (12) Customs also considered factors such as the threat of drug smuggling, budgetary constraints, and legislative limitations.

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