Report No. 02-29
Office of the Inspector General
Department of Justice (Department) components maintain a large inventory of property, such as weapons and laptop computers, that could result in danger to the public or compromise national security or investigations, if not properly controlled.† In March 2001, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited the Immigration and Naturalization Serviceís (INS) management of its property and found, among other things, that the INS did not have adequate controls over weapons and computers, which resulted in many INS weapons being lost or stolen.† After that audit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) disclosed that many weapons and laptops were missing from its inventory.
In response to concerns about the Departmentís accountability for its weapons and laptops, the Attorney General asked the OIG to conduct audits of the controls over the inventory of such property throughout the Department.† The OIG therefore conducted separate audits of the controls over weapons and laptop computers at the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS).1† The OIG will issue separate reports on the audits of each of these components, and a capping report describing all the audits when they are completed.† This report
covers the audit in the USMS.
The USMSís mission is to protect the federal courts and ensure the secure operation of the judicial system, including apprehending fugitives, protecting witnesses, and transporting prisoners.† As of January 2002, the agency had a total of 6,261 law enforcement personnel (3,443 of which are contract court security officers) throughout the United States and its territories.† As of August 28, 2001, the USMS identified an inventory of 14,361 weapons and 1,450 laptop computers that assist the USMS in performing its law enforcement mission.† Our audit objectives were to review the USMSís:† (1) actions taken in response to the identification of lost or stolen weapons and laptop computers, and (2) management controls over these types of equipment.
In brief, our audit revealed deficiencies in the USMSís policies and practices related to lost and stolen equipment.† In addition, we identified weaknesses in the property management cycle related to purchases, the return of equipment from separated employees, and physical inventories.† Specifically:
- The USMS reported 6 weapons and 56 laptop computers as lost or stolen during the 2 years covered by our audit, and 23 percent of these losses were attributed to undocumented destruction or transfer.† Although the number of losses in relation to the universe is small, the sensitive nature of these items and the potential
for public harm intensifies the significance of each loss.
- Lost and stolen weapons and laptop computers were not always reported timely, and reports to the Department were not complete.† Further, the reporting process does not ensure that all necessary information is captured to aid the investigation and possible recovery of the losses.† For example, the date the loss was discovered and the sensitivity of data stored on lost laptop computers are not specifically required to be reported.
- The USMS Board of Survey, which is responsible for reviewing property losses, has not convened since November 2000.† As a result, 50 of the 62 reported losses of weapons and laptop computers have not been adjudicated.† In the remaining 12 cases, the Board did not recommend disciplinary action, but often noted that the losses could have been prevented through closer adherence to property management guidelines.
- The property management system is not integrated with the accounting systems.† The procedure for ensuring that all purchased property is entered into the property system is entirely paper-driven.† We found that nine percent of the weapons and laptop computers identified from purchase documents had not been entered into the official property database in a timely manner.† Property not recorded in the official property system is highly susceptible to loss because its theft or misappropriation could go unnoticed.
- The USMSís policies and practices do not adequately support the return of property from employees who leave the USMS.† Although the USMS requires a standard form to be completed for separating employees, the form has not been used on a consistent basis, and does not expressly identify the return of weapons.
- USMS policy requires weapons inventories to be certified annually; however, the policy does not require the submission of these certifications to be monitored by Headquarters personnel.† In addition, biennial physical inventories of accountable property have not always been timely.
- According to USMS management, the agency maintains a limited supply of stun guns and stun belts, but these items are not categorized as accountable property.† In our judgment, these potentially dangerous devices, which emit electrical charges to temporarily immobilize individuals, are susceptible to loss because they are not subject to physical inventory and inclusion in the official property management system.
The details of the audit results are contained in the Findings and Recommendations section of the report.† Additional information on our audit objectives, scope, and methodology is contained in Appendix I.
- Since we had recently completed an audit of the INSís management of property in
March 2001, we did not include the component in this review of weapons and laptop computers.