The objectives of our review were to determine whether the DEA used Fee Account funds for non-Diversion Control Program activities and whether since FY 2004 the DEA has fully funded its Diversion Control Program with the Fee Account, as required by law.
Our review examined the Fee Account revenues and expenses from FY 2004 through FY 2007. We began with FY 2004 because it was the first full year after the DEA created the Validation Unit within headquarters to review and ensure that every Fee Account expense over $500 is related to a diversion control activity. We reviewed whether the DEA used Fee Account funds for non-diversion control activities and, conversely, that Fee Account funds were not available for legitimate diversion control activities.
We considered possible uses of the Fee Account for non-diversion control activities before FY 2004 to be out of the scope of our review. In addition, we did not evaluate whether the DEA used Fee Account funds effectively. Rather, we evaluated whether the DEA used Fee Account funds for activities it determined to be within the Diversion Control Program.
To examine the DEA’s use of Fee Account funds, we reviewed federal laws; final rules published in the Federal Register; budget documents; DEA policies, procedures, and manuals; DEA internal inspection reports; and electronic correspondence between the Validation Unit and the DEA’s Office of Chief Counsel regarding the Office of Chief Counsel’s legal interpretation of how Fee Account funds can be used.
At DEA headquarters, we interviewed the Chief of the Executive Policy and Strategic Planning Staff and all the employees of the Validation Unit. We interviewed employees within the Office of Diversion Control, including the Section Chiefs of the Planning and Resources Section, the Liaison and Policy Section, and the Registration and Program Support Section. Outside of the Diversion Control Program, we spoke with employees within the Office of Investigative Technology and in each of the four sections of the Financial Management Division. We also interviewed attorneys in the DEA’s Office of Chief Counsel and in the OIG’s Office of General Counsel.
We conducted site visits at three DEA field divisions: Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; and St. Louis, Missouri. We selected the Chicago field division because it is a large field division and because a DEA chemical laboratory that analyzes drug evidence is located in the city. We chose the Detroit field division and its district office in Columbus, Ohio, because the Office of Inspection in conjunction with the Validation Unit and ODA had recently conducted a review there, which noted that allegations of Fee Account misuse had been raised by personnel within the field division. We selected the St. Louis field division and its district office in Kansas City, Kansas, at the suggestion of DEA managers and because the St. Louis office has a Tactical Diversion Squad.
During these field visits, we interviewed Special Agents in Charge, Associate and Assistant Special Agents in Charge, Diversion Program Managers, Diversion Group Supervisors, Diversion Investigators, Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts assigned to the Diversion Control Program, Group Assistants, Intelligence Group Supervisors, Supervisory Budget Analysts, Administrative Officers, and a Chemical Lab Supervisor who oversees a fee-funded Forensic Chemist (Chemist). During our field visits, we became aware of other diversion control field personnel who wished to speak to us regarding the use of Fee Account funds and interviewed them.
Commitment Request and Obligation Data
To determine if Fee Account funds had been used for non-diversion control activities, we obtained the electronic records of all fee-funded obligations between FY 2004 and the first half of FY 2007 that were recorded in the FFS. From these records, we selected a random sample of obligations of $500 and under in the Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit field divisions.28 Based on the obligations that we selected, we asked for the associated commitment request and obligating documents from the three field divisions. On these documents, we reviewed the number of approval signatures from diversion and non-diversion control supervisors, the types of expenses, and the number of written justifications included on these forms to determine how closely the field divisions followed the guidelines of the obligation process for expenses of $500 and under.
From the records in the FFS, we also selected a subjective sample of obligations exceeding $500 that are required to be validated by the Validation Unit. To ensure that we reviewed expenses in certain categories, we subjectively sampled 10 obligations from the 5 following categories, for a total of 50 obligations:
infrastructure – obligations related to official government vehicles, building alterations, and utilities;
training – obligations related to training diversion control personnel, including travel and transportation to training, as well as tuition for training conferences;
field operations – obligations made in field divisions to support field activities;
field support – obligations for headquarters support of field division activities, such as funding pen registers;29 and
headquarters support – obligations related to DEA-wide entities, including the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Fusion Center and the El Paso Intelligence Center.
Based on the obligations that we selected, we asked for the associated commitment request and obligating documents. On these documents, we reviewed the number of supervisor approval signatures, the expense justifications, and the validation stamps to determine how many obligation records were legitimately fee-fundable and how many records the Validation Unit had properly approved or denied using their standard operating procedures.
Work Hour Data
To determine the total diversion control salary costs and assess whether since FY 2004 the DEA fully funded its Diversion Control Program using the Fee Account as required, we obtained work hour data from the DEA’s Work Hours Reporting System (WRS) and the System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence II (STRIDE), the DEA’s laboratory analytical system, for work hours associated with criminal diversion investigations by Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, and Chemists. The DEA tracks Special Agent and Intelligence Analyst time in its WRS database and Chemist time in STRIDE.30 These employees record the hours charged to specific criminal investigations on their biweekly timesheets using codes known as substance identifiers that denote the primary substance or commodity involved in the investigation. These codes specify 51 principal controlled substances. The DEA has determined that 27 of the codes are always related to diversion control, and work done under them is therefore fee-fundable, and that 2 other codes may be related, depending on the case. (See Appendix III for list of principal controlled substances or commodities that the DEA considers fee-fundable.) The DEA determines the work hours expended by each type of employee to support the Diversion Control Program by adding the total number of hours associated with investigations that have one of the 27 codes that are always related to diversion control. During the time period covered by our review, the DEA did not include work hours associated with the other two codes that may or may not have been related to a diversion investigation.
The Diversion Control Program has two types of Chemist positions – those that support specific investigations (Forensic) and those who evaluate controlled substances and listed chemicals for scheduling and other management purposes. Only Forensic Chemists enter their time and attendance information into STRIDE.