Semiannual Report to Congress
October 1, 2006-March 31, 2007
Office of the Inspector General
|The DEA enforces federal laws and regulations related to the growth, production, or distribution of controlled substances. In addition, the DEA seeks to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs, both domestically and internationally. The DEA has approximately 10,900 employees staffing its 23 division offices in the United States and the Caribbean and 86 offices in 62 other countries.|
The DEA’s International Operations
Since 2003, the DEA has increased the number of its foreign offices, bolstered its international funding, and augmented the number of personnel assigned to combat foreign drug trafficking and organizations. The OIG’s Audit Division reviewed the DEA’s international operations and concluded that the DEA has established valuable relationships with its foreign counterparts that assist its efforts to combat major drug trafficking organizations that affect the United States. DEA performance data indicates that its international offices are pursuing high-priority cases and have succeeded in disrupting and dismantling many drug trafficking organizations. In addition, we found that the DEA’s international partners speak positively about the DEA’s training of foreign law enforcement personnel.
Our audit also found that certain aspects of the DEA’s international operations could be improved. For example, the DEA does not have a standardized system to track leads and requests for assistance received by its foreign offices. Without such a system, the DEA could not objectively assess the quantity or quality of support that its foreign offices provided to other DEA offices and law enforcement agencies.
Our audit also revealed deficiencies with the DEA’s management and oversight of its Vetted Unit Program, an initiative that involves screening and training foreign law enforcement personnel and funding them to perform work on behalf of the DEA. The deficiencies included poor recordkeeping, inadequate practices for paying foreign personnel who participate in the Vetted Unit Program, exceeding the recommended ratio of DEA advisors assigned to monitor the program compared to the number of foreign personnel participating in the program, insufficient evidence of training, and failure to perform exit briefings of outgoing foreign personnel leaving the program.
The OIG made 22 recommendations to assist the DEA in improving the management and operation of its international activities. The DEA agreed with the majority of our recommendations and outlined a plan for corrective action.
The DEA’s Handling of Cash Seizures
From October 1, 2003, to November 3, 2005, the DEA made 16,007 cash seizures totaling nearly $616 million. Cash seized by the DEA is eventually transferred to the USMS for safekeeping until it is either forfeited by or returned to its owner. The OIG’s Audit Division audited the DEA’s handling of cash that it seizes during the course of its investigations.
Our audit determined that the DEA has internal control policies for handling and safeguarding seized cash, such as requiring that a witness be present at critical stages of the cash handling process, counting the seized cash immediately unless the amount of cash seized makes an immediate count impracticable, and completing documentation detailing the disposition of the seized cash. However, the DEA failed to consistently follow or document compliance with these policies.
For example, we often found no documentation indicating whether a witnessing agent or task force officer was present at critical stages of the cash handling process, as required by DEA policy. We also identified many instances where agents and task force officers failed to count the seized cash; provide a receipt to the subject from whom the cash was taken; complete documents transferring custody of the cash to an evidence custodian; or record the receipt, transfer, or disposal of the cash in a temporary or permanent control ledger.
Failure to follow DEA policies on counting seized cash can lead to various problems, including allegations of theft against DEA agents. Our review of 33 internal DEA investigations involving allegations that DEA agents had either lost or stolen defendants’ property found that in 11 instances DEA agents did not properly handle, process, or dispose of the evidence. Some of the cases involved multiple violations of DEA policies.
The OIG made seven recommendations to improve the DEA’s handling of seized cash. The DEA agreed with all but one of our recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 210 complaints involving the DEA. The most common allegations made against DEA employees included job performance failure, theft, waste, and mismanagement. The OIG opened 9 investigations and referred other allegations to the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility for review.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 16 open cases of alleged misconduct against DEA employees. The most common allegations were theft and improper release of information. The following are examples of cases involving the DEA that the OIG’s Investigations Division investigated during this reporting period:
An investigation by the OIG’s Denver Field Office determined that a DEA Special Agent fraudulently obtained a government-funded permanent change of duty station transfer by falsely claiming that his wife suffered from cancer. The DEA had expended $47,805 to relocate the Special Agent and his family. The USAO for the District of Wyoming has filed a civil False Claims Act complaint in the District of Utah seeking repayment of funds and damages from the Special Agent.
A joint investigation by the OIG’s Los Angeles Field Office and the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility led to the arrest of a DEA contracting officer on charges of corruptly profiting from his employment as a federal agent and making a false statement. The joint investigation developed evidence that the contracting officer received for his personal use 21 checks totaling $13,442 from a DEA vendor whose contract he managed. The contracting officer also failed to disclose on his financial disclosure form the funds he received from the vendor. Judicial proceedings continue.
The DEA’s Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
In August 2002, the OIG issued a report auditing the DEA’s internal controls over its weapons and laptop computers that detailed significant lapses in the control over management of these assets. This follow-up audit is examining the effectiveness of DEA’s current initiatives to manage these critical assets and determine if the DEA has taken corrective action on the recommendations in the original audit report.
The DEA’s Utilization of Intelligence Analysts and Reports Officers
The OIG is auditing the effectiveness of the DEA’s efforts to recruit, train, and retain its intelligence analysts and reports officers.
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