U.S. Customs Service:

Oversight Issues

T-GGD-97-107: Published: May 15, 1997. Publicly Released: May 15, 1997.

Additional Materials:


Norman J. Rabkin
(202) 512-3610


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

GAO discussed the Customs Service's drug interdiction efforts, labor-management partnership concept, and issues related to inspectional overtime.

GAO noted that: (1) its 1996 report on Customs' drug interdiction efforts identified and described the key elements, resources, costs, and performance measures of Customs' national drug interdiction program as well as those of its investigative offices and selected ports; (2) Customs' challenges included how to: (a) effectively interdict drugs and enforce trade laws while facilitating border crossings; and (b) develop performance measures that gauge the effectiveness of its drug interdiction activities; (3) its March 1997 testimony discussed labor-management activities within Customs; (4) in June 1994, Customs and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) entered into a partnership agreement that established 19 goals, set up a National Partnership Council, and stated that NTEU will participate in agency meetings that affect the workforce; (5) GAO's limited work revealed that most of the Customs managers and NTEU chapter presidents GAO interviewed characterized their relationship as better while first-line supervisors' views were more evenly distributed from "much better" to "much worse"; (6) Customs did not have any plans for an evaluation of the impact of the partnership approach on its mission and GAO concluded that since the partnership was almost 3 years old, it was not too soon for Customs to develop a formal plan for evaluating it; (7) in 1991, GAO reported that overtime pay to Customs inspectors had increased from about $57 million in fiscal year (FY) 1985 to about $103 million in FY 1990; (8) GAO concluded that an important cause was Customs' focus on ensuring that inspectors did not exceed the $25,000 cap instituted by Congress in 1983 and its disregard of the individual overtime assignments that build to the cap; (9) GAO also concluded that original overtime provisions hindered efficient management and that the special payments were premised on conditions that no longer existed; (10) GAO recommended that: (a) overtime pay be more directly linked to actual hours worked; and (b) overtime be used more efficiently; (11) the 1993 Customs Officers Pay Reform Amendments (COPRA) were intended to more closely match earnings to hours worked; (12) however, the Treasury Inspector General (IG) reported in September 1996 that although COPRA reduced direct spending associated with overtime pay, it caused a significant increase in the costs associated with night differential pay in fiscal years 1995 and 1996; and (13) in addition, the IG pointed out that annually inspectors file and win grievances if they are not allowed to work because they are close to the $25,000 cap.

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