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The Inspections Division

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

 


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Inspections Division

 

Overview and Highlights

 

The Inspections Division (Inspections) provides the Inspector General with an alternative mechanism to traditional audits and investigations to assess Department of Justice (Department) programs and activities. Inspections conducts analyses and makes recommendations for improvements in Department programs, policies, and procedures. Inspections' strengths lie in its multidisciplinary workforce and the 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.

During this reporting period, Inspections assessed the Border Patrol's drug interdiction activities along the Southwest Border, management controls over Certificates of Naturalization at selected INS district offices, and whether INS had improved the processing of surety bonds and related breach and billing actions since our 1993 inspection. Inspections also conducted reviews of Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive grants.

 

Significant Inspections

 

Border Patrol Drug Interdiction Activities on the Southwest Border

While the primary mission of the Border Patrol is to prevent illegal entry across the United States' borders between ports of entry, over the past decade that mission has expanded to include apprehension of drug smugglers and seizure of drugs. The Border Patrol turns the suspects and evidence over to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or other federal or state law enforcement agency for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Our inspection assessed the Border Patrol's drug storage and transfer practices, its policies on whether to pursue drug smuggling suspects or secure abandoned drugs, its methods for disposition of aliens arrested in drug seizure cases, and its use of drug interdiction intelligence. Inspectors visited 15 stations in 4 of the Border Patrol's 9 Southwest Border sectors and reviewed a random sample of 426 drug seizure cases from Fiscal Year (FY) 1996.

At most stations visited, we found that the Border Patrol stored seized drugs in an insecure manner, including in open areas on the floor of some Border Patrol stations, and did not consistently follow proper procedures for the chain of custody when drugs were transferred to another law enforcement agency to be used as evidence in a possible prosecution or to be destroyed. In addition, we found that the Border Patrol had no consistent policy on the pursuit of drug smuggling suspects who abandon drugs and flee. Based on our sample, 36 percent of drug smuggling suspects who were pursued dropped the drugs

The Washington Times WED., September 23, 1998



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Significant Inspections

 

and escaped apprehension. In addition, 52 percent of deportable aliens who were arrested during drug seizures were granted a voluntary return or voluntary departure to Mexico, usually with no further processing for drug or immigration violations. We also found that the Border Patrol does not systematically collect, record, and analyze intelligence data available from drug smuggling suspects or coordinate with DEA to ensure that each agency has an opportunity to obtain information from suspects during questioning. Finally, the Border Patrol does not routinely retain suspects' fingerprints in drug seizure cases and enter them into identification databases.

We recommended that INS update procedures and guidance to strengthen controls and improve overall effectiveness of the drug interdiction program. The Border Patrol agreed with our recommendations and is addressing each of our findings.

Follow-Up Inspection of the Management of Delivery Bonds in INS

Delivery bonds, which can be cash, Treasury bonds, or surety bonds, are used to guarantee that aliens appear before an immigration officer for deportation action. This follow-up review covered calendar years 1992 through 1995 and disclosed weaknesses in tracking, breaching, billing, and collecting for surety bonds.

Inspectors visited four INS district offices and found that INS employees failed to process the breach actions in a timely manner. Therefore, INS lost the opportunity to breach and collect an estimated 147 bonds with a value of over $775,000. Personnel in these offices also had taken no action to breach bonds with an estimated value of over $440,000 that were still breachable at the time of our review. During FYs 1993 through 1996, INS issued bills for breached bonds amounting to $25.8 million but collected only $11.7 million.

Because INS continued to fail to collect millions of dollars owed by surety companies and experienced numerous problems with the delivery bond process, we recommended that INS either reengineer the delivery bond process or discontinue the use of commercial surety bonds and accept only cash or treasury bonds to guarantee an alien's appearance.

Controls Over Certificates of Naturalization (Phase II)

During this reporting period, we issued the second of two reports relating to INS controls over Certificates of Naturalization (N-550s). Because of the N-550's intrinsic value, INS classifies it as a secure document that requires special handling and safeguarding. Phase I, completed in February 1998, examined management controls over N-550s at INS' Forms Centers. Phase II reviewed management control weaknesses at 5 of the 33 domestic INS district offices. These 5 INS district offices received about 849,000 certificates from June 1, 1995, to June 1, 1997.

We found that no district completely followed the prescribed management controls, which were intended to prevent theft or misuse of the certificates. We project that INS may be unable to verify the disposition of approximately 18,000 certificates and lacks

 


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Significant Inspections

 

supporting documentation that approximately 19,000 certificates were properly voided and destroyed for the 5 district offices visited. In addition, the Central Index System (CIS) may not contain naturalization data for about 62,000 cases in the offices visited. It is important that CIS be current and accurate since inaccurate information given to a benefits provider or employer could result in the denial of benefits or employment.

INS is currently in the process of reengineering the naturalization program. However, until reengineering is complete and new guidelines are established, INS needs to ensure that N-550s are accounted for and safeguarded. Following issuance of the OIG's Phase I report, INS classified controls over N-550s as a material weakness.

Naturalization Fingerprint Process

In September 1995, INS initiated Citizenship U.S.A., a program designed to substantially reduce the backlog of pending naturalization applications. During the year the program was in operation, INS naturalized applicants without completing all required criminal background checks, resulting in the naturalization of a large number of aliens with criminal records. In response to congressional hearings on this issue in March 1997, INS began a comprehensive redesign of the naturalization program, including changes in the fingerprint process.

At INS' request, we reviewed their redesigned fingerprint process early in its implementation stages. We examined how the new Application Support Centers (ASCs) processed fingerprints, how INS Service Centers tracked and processed fingerprints, and how INS obtained and tracked results of Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background checks.

Our inspectors found that:

   INS had no efficient way to track fingerprint cards in the early stages of the process.

    ASCs could not easily identify or track cards they processed or sent to Service Centers, and Service Centers lacked an efficient means to track fingerprint cards received from the ASCs.

    Data were not automatically updated to the Revised Naturalization Application Casework System, mostly due to software problems.

   The ASC contractor billed INS for hours employees worked before being granted security clearance.

   ASCs and Service Centers were unable to effectively use their bar code equipment to capture applicant identity data throughout the fingerprint process.

    INS' applicant identity procedures at ASCs may not ensure the authenticity of the applicant being fingerprinted.

INS is taking corrective action on the problems identified.

 


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Significant Inspections

 

INS' Customer Management Information System

At the request of INS, we conducted an inspection of its Customer Management Information System (CMIS), which is the computer system used to serve walk-in customers who visit district office information waiting areas. CMIS collects and reports information for use by INS to better manage the information waiting areas.

Our inspectors found minimal evidence that INS analyzes or applies CMIS data to enhance use of resources or improve delivery of services. We found little evidence that CMIS produces reliable data and noted numerous instances in which INS personnel incorrectly entered or failed to enter data into CMIS. We concluded that CMIS' management information is of little value to INS.

We recommended that, until INS improves data reliability, it should not spend additional funds to install or upgrade CMIS or use CMIS data for decision making or reporting purposes.

INS is currently assessing the value of CMIS data and will make a determination whether CMIS is the most cost effective and efficient tool to improve employee productivity and service to the public.

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

Under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, formula grant funding is awarded 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 13 grant reviews.

Our reviews found that 11 of the 13 states were still in the process of planning and designing many of their grant projects, which often involve lengthy evaluations of alternative sites and proposed structures. The grant program recognizes the complexity of the grant projects and allows the states several years for project completion. Six states, however, had projects under construction, and five states had completed projects. Five states were also using grant funds to increase capacity for violent offenders through the lease of beds in private facilities. The states generally had adequate administrative controls for monitoring projects and managing grant funds. However, in five states, we noted various shortcomings in accounting for total grant funds awarded, providing matching state funds, and expending federal funds received within required timeframes. In one state, we also found grant funds were used to house dependent children of inmates—an unallowable project cost under the requirements of the grant program. One state was also pursuing a project that was not proposed in the state's grant application and had not amended the application to reflect the change. Nine states omitted or did not submit timely reports required to document the status of program implementation. We asked the Office of Justice Programs to ensure timely and accurate reporting by the states, to ensure grant funds are used for intended purposes and are expended in a timely manner, and to facilitate resolution of questioned costs with individual grantees.

 


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Other Activities

 

Potential for Fraud in the VISA Program

Inspections prepared an internal OIG document, Potential for Fraud in the VISA Program, to advise senior OIG management on the relative risks associated with various classes of nonimmigrant visas. This document provides an overview of nonimmigrant entry into the United States, as well as descriptions of controls over nonimmigrant travel to the United States, types of visa fraud, selected efforts to combat visa fraud, and vulnerabilities in the visa program. It also provides an assessment of the relative risks of nonimmigrant classes based on the nature of travel, volume of use, and indications of fraud and abuse associated with individual nonimmigrant visa types.

 

Follow-Up Activities

Unresolved Inspections

DOJ Order 2900.10, Follow-up and Resolution Policy for Inspection Recommendations by the Office of the Inspector General, requires inspection reports to be resolved within six months of the report issuance date. As of September 30, we were continuing to work with INS to resolve the recommendation in the Immigration Officer Training report that it begin general arrest authority training mandated by the Immigration Act of 1990. An inspection report on the Tri-State Violent Crime Task Force of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland that contained an unresolved recommendation was resolved just after the close of the semiannual reporting period.

 

Inspections Statistics

The chart below summarizes Inspections' accomplishments for the 6-month reporting period ending September 30, 1998.