USDOJ/OIG - Semiannual Report to Congress, October 1, 1998 - March 31, 1999

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The Inspections Division

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



USDOJ/OIG - Semiannual Report to Congress, October 1, 1998 - March 31, 1999

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Inspections Division

Overview and Highlights

The Inspections Division (Inspections) provides the IG with an alternative mechanism to traditional audits and investigations to assess Department programs and activities. Inspections conducts analyses and makes recommendations for improvements in Department programs, policies, and procedures. Inspections relies on its multidisciplinary workforce and ability to quickly address diverse issues. In addition to assessing Department programs, Inspections also conducts special time-sensitive assignments that are responsive to concerns of senior Department management or Congress.

Inspections is located in Washington, D.C., and is directed by the Assistant Inspector General for Inspections. The staff is composed of program analysts who are assigned to one of two evaluation offices—the Office of Immigration and Law Enforcement Evaluations or the Office of Corrections and Legal Evaluations. This structure enables Inspections to maintain subject matter expertise and establish collaborative relationships with component staff in their respective issue areas.

During this reporting report, Inspections assessed INS' efforts at air ports of entry to minimize illegal immigration and national security threats posed by abuse of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP), examined how INS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) immigration judges implement voluntary departure, completed the second in a series of reviews of EOUSA's Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) program, and completed six Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing (VOI/TIS) Incentive grant reviews.


Significant Inspections


The Visa Waiver Pilot Program

Citizens of the 26 countries in VWPP do not have to obtain a visa for entry into the United States. In order to be admitted to the program, a country must meet various criteria, including that its citizens are not likely to overstay, violate the terms of their admission, or represent a security risk. Before allowing VWPP visitors entry, INS inspectors have a brief time to question and observe them, examine their passports, and check their names and passport numbers against a computerized lookout database to find out if they are inadmissible for any reason. In FY 1997, 14.5 million visitors entered under VWPP.

We conducted a review of VWPP and found evidence of fraudulent activity. The most serious instances involved terrorists, criminals, and alien smugglers, many of whom used fraudulently obtained passports from VWPP countries in their attempts to enter the United States. We then focused our review on stolen blank VWPP passports used for entry into the United States. We tested 1,067 VWPP blank passports reported to INS as stolen and found that almost 10 percent may have been used to gain entry. We also identified problems with the way the database maintains information about stolen VWPP passports.

We recommended that INS improve its collection and dissemination of VWPP-related intelligence and expand successful methods for identifying and preventing illegal entry. Specifically, we recommended that INS (1) modify inspection policy to ensure that VWPP applicants' passport numbers are queried against the database, (2) systematically collect information on stolen blank VWPP passports and ensure timely entry of stolen passport numbers into the database, and (3) develop guidelines for entering passport numbers when creating database records.

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Significant Inspections

Voluntary Departure

This OIG has identified the removal of illegal aliens as one of the 10 most serious management challenges facing the Department. Voluntary departure allows eligible illegal aliens to leave the country through a streamlined process, which saves the federal government detention and removal costs. INS district officers grant voluntary departure to apprehended aliens, while EOIR immigration judges grant voluntary departure to aliens in removal proceedings. Immigration law precludes many convicted felons from receiving grants of voluntary departure.

Our inspection found that criminal history checks identifying felons not eligible for voluntary departure are not performed on all illegal aliens granted voluntary departure. As a result, INS district officers and EOIR immigration judges have inappropriately granted voluntary departure to some felons. We found that INS enforcement of voluntary departure orders is minimal and that INS does not seek to apprehend aliens who fail to leave. We also found that INS does not know which aliens granted voluntary departure actually leave the country because INS lacks an effective departure verification system.

We recommended that INS and EOIR institute stronger controls to ensure that criminal history checks are completed and introduced as evidence in removal proceedings. We also recommended that INS implement an effective departure verification system and develop an enforcement plan for aliens who have violated voluntary departure orders.

Violent Crime Task Forces of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia

At the request of EOUSA, we conducted the second in a series of inspections of EOUSA's VCTF program. The USAO for the District of Columbia received $968,000 in 1995 to establish a task force, known as "Operation Ceasefire," to reduce gun violence. The USAO also received $166,000 in 1995 to enable the FBI to continue fugitive, gang, and homicide squads in Washington, D.C., as part of its "Safe Streets" initiative.

The District of Columbia experienced a decrease in violent crime, and although our inspection did not determine whether this is attributable to the activities of Operation Ceasefire and Safe Streets, we did ascertain that USAO and the FBI conducted activities in support of their VCTF objectives. However, we found that USAO's administrative and internal controls over the expenditure of funds for Operation Ceasefire and Safe Streets need improvement.

Based on our review of USAO's accounting records and other documents, we questioned nearly $80,000 of Operation Ceasefire overtime expenditures because of inaccurate or duplicate claims made by the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). We found that MPD also submitted inaccurate reimbursement requests to the FBI for Safe Streets-related overtime and that the FBI did not thoroughly review the overtime invoices for accuracy. We recommended that EOUSA, USAO, and the FBI strengthen the administrative and internal controls over the expenditure of VCTF funds and that they recover the reimbursements made to MPD for improper overtime claims.



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Significant Inspections


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

Under the Crime Act, formula grant funding is awarded, through OJP, to eligible states to build or expand correctional facilities and jails to increase secure confinement space for violent offenders. Inspectors conduct site reviews of grant recipients to ensure that they are achieving program objectives and federal funds are spent in accordance with program requirements. During this reporting period, we completed reviews for California, New York, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The grant program recognizes the complexity of the grant projects and allows states several years for project completion. Our reviews found that five of the six states were still planning and designing many of their correctional facilities, a process that often involves lengthy evaluations of alternative sites and proposed structures. New York, however, had completed five grant projects and had started construction on its sixth and final project. The states we reviewed generally had adequate administrative controls for monitoring the projects and managing grant funds. However, in four states we noted shortcomings in accounting for the federal grant funds awarded, providing state matching funds, and reporting the status of program implementation.

We asked OJP to ensure that the states properly document their federal grant funds, provide the appropriate state matching funds for each grant project, and submit timely and accurate reports on expenditures and projects' progress.

INS Contract with the Vera Institute of Justice

In September 1996, INS and the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) entered into a $6.4 million sole-source, fixed-price contract for the Appearance Assistance Program (AAP) demonstration project in INS' New York District. The AAP is designed to test whether supervision of aliens will increase aliens' appearance at hearings and compliance with immigration judges' final orders in order to allow INS to make better use of detention space.

In response to complaints received about the contract, we reviewed AAP and identified issues with how Vera was selected; questions regarding the appropriateness of the study's design methodology; concerns with INS' management of its AAP responsibilities; and problems with communication, including INS management's failure to communicate specific AAP objectives to the operational levels of INS.

We recommended that INS conduct an objective review of Vera's final report of the project before INS expands AAP to other districts, determine whether the benefits of a supervision program outweigh its costs, and determine how to handle enrolled aliens who have not completed their removal proceedings when the contract ends. INS should not proceed with any additional AAP-type initiative until it has completed a rigorous assessment of the Vera project and its final report. Given the number of officials who expressed their view that INS could not afford the resource-intensive methods Vera devoted to select and supervise a small group of aliens, we also recommended that INS assess whether the benefits of an AAP-type program are practicable and obtainable by INS.


USDOJ/OIG - Semiannual Report to Congress, October 1, 1998 - March 31, 1999

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Significant Inspections


The chart below summarizes Inspections' accomplishments for the 6-month reporting period ending March 31, 1999.


Inspections Statistics

Inspections Workload Accomplishments Number of Inspections
Inspections active at beginning of period 19
Inspections canceled 1
Inspections initiated 5
Final inspection reports issued 10
Inspections active at end of reporting period 13