National Fine Center:

Implementation of Criminal Debt System Presents Challenges

T-AIMD-95-215: Published: Jul 19, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 1995.

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GAO discussed the Administrative Office of the United States Courts' (AOUSC) efforts to centralize criminal debt accounting and reporting within the National Fine Center (NFC). GAO noted that: (1) although AOUSC has made progress in centralizing new criminal debt information in 25 of the smaller judicial districts, it still faces significant challenges that will require extensive planning and coordination between AOUSC, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and other system users in all 94 districts; (2) AOUSC plans to use an enhanced off-the-shelf accounting system to centralize criminal debt data; (3) AOUSC expects that the NFC system will have complete criminal debt data for all 94 districts by September 1996; (4) AOUSC expects to expand the system during phase II to improve users' access to NFC information and increase management information reporting capabilities; (5) AOUSC has yet to complete phase I software enhancements that would accommodate the larger courts and existing data; (6) AOUSC has not reconciled existing criminal debt accounts; (7) AOUSC and DOJ have not determined the collectibility of criminal debt accounts or established an allowance for doubtful or uncollectible accounts; and (8) AOUSC has not determined how to accomplish phase II objectives or what additional enhancements will be needed to implement the criminal debt accounting system.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because of congressional and DOJ concerns about the accomplishments and directions of NFC, the Director of AOUSC had an independent contractor review NFC. In May 1996, the contractor issued its report and concluded that a national approach was not "feasible, economical, or efficient" and did not meet the needs of the people who manage and collect criminal debt. After consultation with congressional staff, Department of Justice officials and other stakeholders, AOUSC decided to transfer criminal debt processing and accounting back to the judicial districts and to initiate NFC shutdown actions. As a result, this recommendation is no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: To fully centralize criminal debt for all 94 judicial districts and provide the information needed to improve the government's ability to collect what is owed, AOUSC should complete planned NFC system enhancements, such as the one needed to perform interest and penalty calculations, and various interfaces to facilitate the exchange of information between NFC and its users.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts


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