October 1, 2003–March 31, 2004
Office of the Inspector General
This review evaluated the USMS's efforts since September 11, 2001, to improve its protection of the federal judiciary. We focused specifically on the USMS's ability to assess threats and determine appropriate measures to protect members of the federal judiciary during high-threat trials and while they are away from courthouses.
We found the USMS's judicial threat assessments are untimely and of questionable validity. We determined that 73 percent of the threat assessments conducted from FYs 2000 through 2003 exceeded the established USMS time standard. Additionally, we questioned the validity of assessments because the historical threat database the USMS used to assess reported threats had not been updated since 1996 and contained no information on the more than 4,900 threats received since 1996.
Our review also found the USMS had limited capability to collect and share intelligence on threats to the federal judiciary among its 94 districts, did not fully participate in the FBI's 56 Joint Terrorism Task Forces, had not ensured that all USMS representatives to the task forces and senior operational officials in the USMS districts possessed the required security clearances, and had not provided the necessary secure telecommunication systems to enable each district to share intelligence effectively on threats against the judiciary.
In addition, our review found that the USMS lacks adequate risk-based standards for determining the appropriate measures for protecting the judiciary during high-threat trials and for protecting judges outside the courthouses. As a result, the USMS cannot ensure that districts consistently apply similar protective measures in response to similar threats or that limited resources for protecting the judiciary are used in the most effective manner.
The USMS concurred with the six recommendations in our report and agreed to take necessary corrective action.
Prisoner Medical Care
The USMS is responsible for providing medical care to the approximately 40,000 prisoners in its custody awaiting trial or judicial action. This care falls in two categories: (1) in-house medical care, which encompasses care at local jail clinics and, in some instances, emergency care provided in USMS cellblock operations, and (2) outside medical care, which encompasses advanced or specialized care at an outside facility. In FY 2002, the USMS spent approximately $43 million on outside medical services for its prisoners, which included $36 million for medical services and $7 million in related guard costs. In addition to its costs, outside medical care generates risks, including the risk of escape; the risk of death or injury to an innocent bystander, law enforcement official, or the prisoner; and the risk that the general public may be exposed to possibly infectious diseases.
The objectives of our audit were to determine whether the USMS provided prisoners necessary health care, the USMS screened and treated prisoners for communicable diseases, prisoner medical costs were necessary and reasonable, and the USMS provided prisoners secure transport to off-site facilities to receive medical treatment. In conducting the audit, we researched and reviewed applicable laws, policies, regulations, manuals, and memoranda; interviewed USMS officials at district offices and headquarters; and tested internal controls over prisoner medical care at 14 USMS district offices.
We found the USMS is not properly managing its prisoner medical care. Our audit determined that USMS district offices often ignore essential internal controls and procedures designed to ensure that basic and emergency health care is properly administered and that necessary outside medical care is efficiently and safely provided. We noted weaknesses in the internal control structure throughout the process, from procurement through payment. Districts were not reconciling invoices with pre-authorizations, in some cases because there were no pre-authorizations with which to reconcile. We also found that the USMS is not obtaining the lowest medical rates allowed by federal legislation and, as a result, is paying out an estimated $7 million annually in excess fees for outside medical care.
In addition, we found USMS districts are not adequately tracking and monitoring communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. The USMS districts also are not adequately monitoring local detention facilities to determine whether federal prisoners are receiving proper health care and are not effectively initiating health care improvements at local jails where health care is substandard. USMS inspections are cursory, and more in-depth reviews conducted by external groups are not followed up. We also found that the management of contract guard operations relative to prisoner medical care was characterized by inadequate training, breaches in policy, and lapses in internal controls. We noted problems in nearly all areas of contract guard activity, ranging from a lack of documentation to overpayments.
Our report contains 12 recommendations to help improve the USMS's efforts to manage prisoner medical care. The USMS concurred fully or in part with 11 of the 12 recommendations.
Budget Execution During FYs 2002 and 2003
The OIG reviewed whether the USMS executed its appropriated budgets for FYs 2002 and 2003 in accordance with congressional intent. During our review, we also identified a number of budget execution and appropriations issues.
The USMS received approximately $1.5 billion in congressional appropriations in FY 2002 and approximately $879 million in FY 2003. (The significant decrease was due to the transfer of funds for detention services from the USMS to the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee.) Using the appropriation laws and conference reports for FYs 2002 and 2003, we focused our review on the spending instructions Congress provided. We reviewed the USMS's documentation of its allocations, obligations, and expenditures to determine if the USMS adhered to congressional spending instructions. Most often, the USMS was unable to demonstrate adherence to the congressional spending instructions because it did not track changes, obligations, and expenditures to cost centers or against estimates developed from cost modules. Consequently, it could not demonstrate that the funds Congress provided in response to the cost module estimates were used for the specific purposes in the estimates. We concluded that the USMS needed to improve its budget execution process to demonstrate more clearly that budgeted funds are executed in accordance with congressional intent.
We also reviewed the USMS's allocation and obligation of funds for the Justice Detainee Information System, an automated prisoner information system. Since FY 1997, Congress has appropriated the USMS up to $4 million annually, or $28 million in total, to develop the system. However, at the time of our audit, the USMS had allocated only $5.5 million of the available $28 million for the system's development over the past seven years.
We recommended the USMS develop a budget execution system that allows expenditures to be traced accurately to their corresponding allocations and clarify that it is meeting congressional expectations with respect to development of the Justice Detainee Information System. The USMS disagreed with the former recommendation, but agreed with the latter.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 172 complaints involving the USMS. The most common allegations made against USMS employees included misuse of official position, use of unnecessary force, and fraud. The OIG opened 12 investigations and referred 2 other allegations to the USMS Office of Internal Affairs for investigation.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 25 open cases of alleged misconduct against USMS employees. The following is an example of a case involving the USMS that the OIG investigated during this reporting period:
Administration of the Witness Security Program
The OIG is reviewing the USMS's administration of the Witness Security Program to evaluate plans and strategies for achieving the program's security objectives, controls for witness safety, and controls for payments to protected witnesses and their families.
The OIG is examining the USMS's background investigations of its employees.