USDOJ/OIG - Semiannual Report to Congress, October 1, 1996 - March 31, 1997

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The Inspections Division

The Inspections Division assesses Department programs and activities and makes recommendations to decisionmakers for improvements in Department programs, policies, and procedures.


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Inspections Division

Overview & Highlights

The Inspections Division provides the Inspector General with an alternative mechanism to traditional audit and investigative disciplines to assess Department of Justice (Department) programs and activities. The Division conducts analyses and makes recommendations to decisionmakers for improvements in Department programs, policies, and procedures. The Inspections Division's strength lies in its multidisciplinary workforce and the ability to quickly address a wide range of issue areas. In addition to assessing Department programs, the Division also conducts special reviewsassignments requiring immediate actionthat are generally initiated at the request of senior Department management or by Congress.

Inspections Division accomplishments during this reporting period concentrated on identifying critical issues affecting the future success of the multiagency Consolidated Asset Tracking System; assessing the progress of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System and identifying obstacles confronting the Department in making cost-effective decisions about transportation for criminal and noncriminal aliens, detainees, and prisoners; and coordinating work efforts with the Office of Justice Programs in the implementation of the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-In-Sentencing Incentive Grant program.

Significant Inspections

Consolidated Asset Tracking System

The Departments of Justice and the Treasury signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a Consolidated Asset Tracking System (CATS) - a system that will track assets through their entire life cycle from seizure to final disposition. The Department of Justice's Assistant Attorney General for Administration requested that the Inspections Division review CATS' implementation status as of January 1, 1995, and, subsequently, conduct a user satisfaction survey of participant agencies. The Asset Forfeiture Program is a material weakness area in the Department.

The Department initially projected that it would implement CATS by December 1992 at a cost of $24 million. An additional $20.5 million was added later for a telecommunications network. Since the original estimate, numerous software enhancements and expanding user requirements have been incorporated into CATS, thus raising estimated costs to $106.2 million and delaying the projected implementation until December 1996. However, full system implementation has been delayed further and is now estimated for spring 1997. It is unlikely this full implementation date will be met because only 50 percent of the CATS sites were installed as of January 1997. Costs are expected to increase as delays continue.

Based on information obtained during our review and user survey, we believe that the continual delays in system implementation, increasing system costs, the impact of the Internal Revenue Service's withdrawal from CATS, and the U.S. Customs Service's decision not to participate in the system raise serious concerns.


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Significant Inspections

Department Implementation of the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992

The Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 (CSRA) makes willful failure to pay a past due support obligation for a child residing in another state a federal offense. We reviewed the Department's implementation of the CSRA and the actions it has taken to comply with the President's July 21, 1996, directive to the Attorney General to strengthen child support enforcement efforts.

The inspection team reviewed CSRA data for 619 case referrals that the Department received between 1993 and mid-1995. As of July 31, 1995, the U.S. Attorneys' Offices (USAOs) had closed 173 of the 619 case referrals, with guilty pleas or convictions in 22 of 23 cases prosecuted. As of that same date, 446 remained open and had been in a prosecutorial or investigative status for an average of 6 months.

As of October 31, 1996, our inspection found that:

3 USAOs had not received or accepted any CSRA case referrals,

17 USAOs had been unable to prosecute any cases based on the quality of the referrals received,

prosecutorial and investigative support assigned to the CSRA cases varied among the USAOs that had accepted referrals, and

several Department procedures impeded prompt and effective CSRA enforcement and case monitoring, including

-- acceptance of incomplete CSRA referral packages,

-- inconsistent case status reporting to state child support enforcement agencies, and

--compilation of incomplete CSRA case data.

The newly appointed Special Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, who is responsible for overseeing the Department's CSRA enforcement, agreed with our conclusions and developed Department strategies to accelerate CSRA enforcement efforts. To comply with the President's CSRA directive, the Department:

formed a task force to enhance criminal prosecution of child support debtors,

reviewed the sentences given those convicted under the CSRA,

drafted legislation to amend the CSRA to establish the willful failure to pay a past due child support obligation as a felony offense rather than a misdemeanor, and

coordinated with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a pilot program using the internet to identify CSRA fugitives.

We believe the oversight actions taken by the Special Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, and the Criminal Division are now appropriately guiding the Department's implementation and enforcement of the CSRA.


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Significant Inspections

Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System in USMS

Transporting prisoners and aliens is a rapidly growing activity in the Department. In October 1995, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) air operations were merged to form the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), with USMS having primary management responsibility. The merger was intended to provide efficient air transportation by taking advantage of centralized management, scheduling, maintenance, and associated economies of scale for both organizations. Combining the two operations should result in increased passenger loads and lower per passenger costs.

JPATS is moving increasing numbers of prisoners, detainees, and criminal and noncriminal aliens; however, we could not assess the efficiency of JPATS because of the lack of usable operational and cost data related to these moves. Efforts are under way to develop an Automated Prisoner Scheduling System (APSS), which will capture information needed to make future JPATS management decisions about aircraft, routes, hubs, and other related areas. As designed, however, APSS will not capture all the costs incurred by Department components involved in transporting prisoners and aliens. Therefore, our inspection recommended that JPATS management and the Chief Information Officer develop a systematic approach to collect and analyze components' cost information. We also recommended that USMS establish a senior-level steering committee, with participants from all JPATS user organizations, to ensure customer involvement in all aspects of APSS development.

Inmate Health Care Costs in BOP

The rising costs of inmate health care are a significant concern to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Between Fiscal Years (FYs) 1990 and 1994, inmate health care costs increased by $124.8 million, or 91 percent. BOP attributes most of the increase in inmate health care costs to factors beyond its controlan aging inmate population, inflation in the medical services industry, and an increase in the number of inmates with drug-related conditions.

BOP has implemented numerous health care cost containment initiatives that have kept per capita costs from rising significantly. BOP's average health care cost per inmate increased by 27 percent between FYs 1990 and 1994, which is less than the 28.6 percent rise in the consumer price index for medical care during the same period. However, our review disclosed that some health care costs have continued to increase despite BOP's containment efforts. We recommended that BOP take additional actions to control costs associated with community provider services, medical guard escort services, and mid-level practitioner and nurse positions.

We also recommended that BOP pursue its proposal to implement an inmate copayment system for certain medical services. Anticipated benefits include a decrease in the number of inmates attending sick call and an increase in inmates accountability and responsibility for their health care.


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Other Activities

The Inspections Division also performs special reviews and investigates complaints concerning mismanagement, waste, or abuse. During the past six months, these activities included the following.

Court Reporting and Transcript Costs at the USAO
for the Eastern District of New York

Our inspectors initiated a review to examine procurement practices for court reporting services. Inspectors found that the USAO for the Eastern District of New York violated Federal Acquisition Regulations by purchasing grand jury transcripts from a partnership of official court reporters employed by the U.S. District Court. Our review also noted that transcript purchases exceeded delegated procurement authority; physical security of grand jury material was inadequate; and official court reporters, who recorded grand jury proceedings or had access to grand jury information, did not have security clearances.

Inspectors also examined the purchase of FY 1995 court transcripts of trials and other legal proceedings through a review of 1,062 court reporter invoices totalling $885,953. Inspectors identified $177,983, or 20 percent of the costs, that may have been for services not requested or necessary.

We recommended that the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York implement a contract to obtain grand jury court reporting services, take corrective actions that ensure the security of the grand jury information, and revise procedures for ordering transcripts to ensure that obligation forms are correct and payments are made only for services ordered.

Because our review uncovered recurring deficiencies in the ordering of services and payment of court reporter invoices and confusion over the different transcript services available, we prepared an advisory memorandum for use by all USAOs and litigating divisions. By ordering only those transcripts services needed and by carefully reviewing invoices to ensure services were ordered and received, the litigating divisions could reduce court reporter costs.

Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-In-Sentencing
Incentive Grant Program

At the request of the Attorney General, the Inspections Division is working closely with the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to implement the $10 billion Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-In-Sentencing Incentive Grant program. Inspectors participated in a 3-day Truth-in-Sentencing workshop sponsored by OJP and, in coordination with OJP, are developing a review guide and a strategy for performing various grant reviews.


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Inspections Statistics

Inspections Workload Accomplishments Number of
Inspections active at beginning of period 12
Inspections canceled/postponed 2
Inspections initiated 5
Final inspection reports issued 4
Inspections active at end of reporting period 11