Customs Service:

Internal Control Weaknesses Over Deletion of Certain Law Enforcement Records

GGD-98-187: Published: Aug 21, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 21, 1998.

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Laurie E. Ekstrand
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the internal control techniques the Customs Service has in place to safeguard certain law enforcement records in the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) from being inappropriately deleted.

GAO noted that: (1) Customs did not have adequate internal controls over the deletion of TECS lookout records; (2) standards issued by the Comptroller General require that: (a) key duties and responsibilities in authorizing, processing, recording, and reviewing transactions should be separated among individuals; (b) internal control systems and all transactions and other significant events should be clearly documented; and (c) supervisors should continuously review and approve the assigned work of their staffs; (3) however, guidance on TECS does not require these safeguards and Customs officials at the three ports GAO visited had not implemented these controls; (4) as a result, Customs employees could inappropriately remove lookout records from TECS; and (5) although GAO's review was limited to Customs headquarters, three Customs Management Centers, and three ports of entry, because of the lack of adequate systemwide internal control standards over deletion authority, it is possible that TECS lookout records may not be adequately safeguarded in other ports of entry as well.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Customs performed programming changes that fully satisfied the recommendation, including mandatory notification of any record deletion, supervisory review on authority and access to TECS records, and a mandatory field in the system to give the reason for the change or record deletion.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that TECS lookout records are adequately safeguarded from inappropriate deletion, the Commissioner of Customs should develop and implement guidance and procedures for authorizing, recording, reviewing, and approving deletions of TECS records that conform to the Comptroller General's standards. These procedures should include requiring supervisory review and approval of record deletions and documenting the reason for record deletions.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: United States Customs Service


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