Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to the Table of Contents

Office of Debt Collection Managementís Implementation
of the Collection Litigation Automated Support System

Report No. 01-15
July 3, 2001
Office of the Inspector General


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Department of Justiceís (Department) Office of Debt Collection Management (DCM) tracks all civil debts referred by other federal agencies to the Department for litigation and collection. As of September 30, 1999, the balance of civil debts owed totaled about $3.2 billion.1 The 94 United States Attorneys Offices (USAOs) and the Departmentís litigating divisions collect the majority of the referred civil debts. The Department has also contracted with 18 Private Counsel offices in 7 judicial districts to supplement its debt collection efforts.2

In past years, the Department components have used multiple automated systems to track and manage civil debts. For example, most of the USAOs used the Tracking Assistance for the Legal Office Network (TALON) system. Many of the Private Counsels and some of the USAOs used a system named COLLECTOR to manage and track civil debts. History has shown that the Department has had a poor record of managing debts using these systems. Accordingly, as detailed below, beginning in 1996 the Department re-focused its debt collection efforts with regard to the use of automated systems to manage and track civil debts.

Our audit assessed the status of CLASS implementation. As of October 1, 2000, phase I of the contract had been completed as CLASS had been implemented in the 7 USAOs and 18 associated Private Counsels. However, phase II had not been completed because CLASS had been implemented in only 2 of the remaining 87 USAOs. As such, DCM was at least 18 months behind schedule in implementing CLASS and had incurred more than $4.6 million in additional costs. DCM management could not project a completion date and estimated monthly additional costs of more than $400,000 pending completion. Delays resulted from management indecision, changes in telecommunications requirements, and disagreements between the DCM office and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) about CLASSís capabilities.

After the disputes between DCM and EOUSA over competing debt collection systems had been unresolved for more than a year, and after we informally communicated our concerns to DCM officials, the Assistant Attorney General for Administration (AAG/A) took action in early December 2000. The AAG/A established a team of independent consultants, referred to as the ďRed Team,Ē to perform a study of the systems in use by the USAOs and Private Counsels and to recommend the system that best meets the Departmentís requirements. The Red Teamís report, issued on January 19, 2001, recommended that CLASS be modified and used as the single debt collection system for the Department. After the report was issued, we were informed by DCM officials that the AAG/A and the Director of EOUSA agreed, for the most part, with the recommendations made in the study. However, we have not received documentation to substantiate the statement.

In addition to the delays in implementing CLASS, we also determined that during CLASSís initial implementation phase, non-financial data was not accurately migrated from TALON to CLASS in two districts. Upon our disclosing the errors to the contractor, it took prompt action to correct the data and the program deficiency that caused most of the errors. We also found that:

To assess usersí satisfaction, we visited all 7 USAOs and 12 of the 18 Private Counsel offices using CLASS and found that users were generally satisfied with most of the systemís features. However, many users were dissatisfied with CLASSís method of generating documents and tracking ďjoint/severalĒ liability cases. These features allow the collectors to mechanically generate required collection documents and account for loans that have multiple debtors liable for the same debt.

The details of our audit work are contained in the Findings and Recommendations section of the report. Our audit objectives, scope, and methodology are contained in Appendix I.


Footnotes

  1. As of January 22, 2001, the September 30, 1999, data was the latest available.

  2. The Department contracts with private law firms (Private Counsel offices) to assist in collecting outstanding debts on behalf of the United States.