Information Management:

Immigration and Naturalization Service Lacks Ready Access to Essential Data

IMTEC-90-75: Published: Sep 27, 1990. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 1990.

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GAO assessed how effectively the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) managed its information resources to support its mission, focusing on information needed by headquarters and field officials to adequately carry out their missions.

GAO found that: (1) INS managers and field officials did not have adequate, reliable, and timely information to effectively carry out its mission; (2) INS information resources management (IRM) problems included incomplete and inaccurate program and management data, a loose collection of automated information systems, and ad hoc, labor-intensive, manual systems that were inaccessible; (3) individual office autonomy resulted in regional and central offices developing redundant systems; (4) INS lacked information needed to effectively deal with criminal aliens, process applications, and account for or collect fees, which increased its risk of admitting illegal aliens and granting benefits to ineligible aliens; (5) INS could not collect millions of dollars in breached surety bonds and other penalties; (6) the INS IRM plan offered conceptually sound goals but provided little direction on how to meet them; (7) INS did not implement policies to promote information sharing and standardized system development; and (8) INS took steps to correct information problems by enhancing systems' capabilities and improving its IRM planning process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS has made progress in improving management of IRM. The Commissioner has taken a leadership role in defining INS information needs. The 1994 INS reorganization removed the information and records program responsibility from the Associate Commissioner for IRM, leaving more time to devote to the management of IRM programs. The Commissioner's Strategic Plan was published in November 1994, and the latest annual Tactical Plan was completed in October 1994. INS' IRM Strategic Plan, which presents a blueprint strategy that supports the Commissioner's priorities and focuses on strengthened border control, removal of criminal aliens, worksite enforcement, customer service, and professionalism, was issued in October 1995. Finally, the planned integration of INS databases and systems should eliminate redundant information in existing systems.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to take a leadership role in defining INS information needs and developing an architecture that will provide sufficient guidance in creating an efficient and effective IRM environment. This would include revising the INS long-range IRM plan and its corresponding priorities and should: (1) be directed by a full-time project manager who will ensure a joint and coordinated effort among headquarters and field IRM officials and program managers; (2) identify existing and planned information systems that have redundant information; and (3) ensure top management commitment and resources needed to implement this long-term effort.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has begun to strengthen its IRM program by establishing a department-level IRM office headed by a deputy assistant attorney general. The Department plans to develop a comprehensive set of IRM oversight policies and guidelines and ensure that components comply with them. The Quality Assurance Branch in the Systems Integration Division conducts independent reviews of systems to validate functionality versus user requirements and performs database validations. Targets for their reviews may be selected based on the system's visibility or criticality, or the review may be requested by the project manager.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should strengthen the Department of Justice's IRM review program and direct the Commissioner, INS, to follow the Attorney General's lead in broadening the focus and frequency of IRM reviews. An aggressive review effort by Justice and INS will help ensure that INS creates a fully integrated information systems environment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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