October 1, 2003–March 31, 2004
Office of the Inspector General
The U.S. Attorneys' Offices
U.S. Attorneys serve as the federal government's principal criminal and civil litigators and conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. Under the direction of the Attorney General, 93 U.S. Attorneys are stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. More than 11,600 employees work in those offices and in the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA).
Critical Incident Response Plans
The OIG reviewed the USAOs' implementation of the Crisis Management Coordinator (CMC) Program, which is intended to improve the USAOs' ability to respond quickly and appropriately to critical incidents ranging from natural disasters to terrorist attacks. We examined the training provided to staff, the exercises conducted to respond to critical incidents, and the critical incident response plans the USAOs developed. In addition, we reviewed the administration and support the Criminal Division's Counterterrorism Section and the EOUSA provided to the CMC Program.
We found that although the Counterterrorism Section, the EOUSA, and the USAOs had taken significant steps to improve the prevention of terrorist attacks, the CMC Program had not been implemented adequately to ensure the USAOs are fully prepared to respond quickly and appropriately to critical incidents. We found the USAOs' critical incident response plans were inadequate, few USAOs had conducted exercises to test their plans, and training for CMCs was not sufficient. These deficiencies have existed from the inception of the program in 1996 and still have not been fully addressed. We concluded that the deficiencies leave the Department less prepared than it could be - and should be - to respond if terrorist attacks or other critical incidents occur.
For example, although the Department identified 48 fundamental actions in 1999 that the USAOs should take when responding to a critical incident, the plans most of the USAOs developed did not include guidance to ensure all of those actions would be accomplished. Examples of the actions to be taken in the event of an incident include coordinating and conducting interviews, managing crime scenes, and deploying USAO resources to the FBI's command post. Only 12 of the 76 plans we reviewed addressed at least 24 of the 48 actions, and 3 of them failed to address any of the 48 actions.
We made ten recommendations to help increase the USAOs' overall preparedness to respond to critical incidents, including revising their plans to address the action items identified by the Department and participating in periodic exercises to test the plans. The Criminal Division and the EOUSA concurred with nine of our recommendations and partially concurred with the tenth.
Payments to Vendors
Our audit assessed whether payments the USAOs made to vendors were in accordance with federal regulations and the policies prescribed by the EOUSA. We tested third-party drafts, purchase cards, electronic fund transfers, and Treasury check payments made by the EOUSA and six USAOs. We sampled a total of 1,517 out of 30,422 transactions at the seven locations. The dollar value of our combined sampled transactions was $2,755,123 out of a total of $31,726,084.
Overall, we found that the procurement and payment directives issued by the EOUSA and other authorities established a system that was sufficient to prevent or detect fraud, loss, or error in payments to vendors. We found an overall low error rate in our tests of the procurement and payment system, indicating that the USAOs generally complied with the directives. However, we found that the procurement authorization forms used by the USAOs to request, approve, and document purchases were inconsistently designed, and some forms did not contain important elements required by procurement regulations. As a result, some acquisition requirements were not being met and were not properly documented.
We made seven recommendations for corrective action that included enhancing existing forms and monthly statements used in the acquisition and payment process, expanding the review process, and reviewing current acquisition and payment limits. We also recommended improved documentation of the actions taken by accountable officers. The EOUSA agreed with our recommendations and is taking corrective action to address them.
The following is an example of cases involving USAOs that the OIG investigated during this reporting period:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
The ATF enforces the federal laws on firearms, explosives, and arson and administers the U.S. Criminal Code provisions on alcohol and tobacco smuggling and diversion. It seeks to combat terrorism, conduct fair and effective regulation of the firearms and explosives industries, and provide training and expertise to federal, state, local, and international law enforcement partners. Its nearly 4,700 special agents, inspectors, regulatory specialists, forensic auditors, laboratory technicians, and other personnel work primarily in 23 field divisions across the 50 states and in offices in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and France.
The following is an example of cases involving the ATF that the OIG investigated during this reporting period:
The Federal Firearms Licensee Inspection Program
The OIG is examining the effectiveness of the ATF's enforcement of federal firearms laws through its federal firearms licensee inspection program. The review is assessing whether the program is effectively ensuring compliance with federal firearms laws and how program violations are identified and corrected.
Implementation of the Safe Explosives Act
The OIG is assessing the ATF's implementation of the Safe Explosives Act, a subsection of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which is intended to prevent explosives accidents and reduce the possibility of the theft of explosives for potential terrorist use.
Enforcement and Referral of Brady Act Violations
The OIG is examining whether the ATF is effectively investigating and referring for prosecution violations of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that are identified through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Specifically, the review is assessing whether the ATF is investigating those cases involving firearms issued to prohibited individuals - and retrieving the weapons - in a timely manner; the extent to which the ATF is investigating other Brady Act violations; and the extent to which Brady Act violations are being prosecuted by the USAOs.