Semiannual Report to Congress
October 1, 2004–March 31, 2005
Office of the Inspector General
The USMS provides for the security, health, and safety of non-incarcerated Witness Security Program (WITSEC) participants. Since 1970, the USMS has protected, relocated, and given new identities to more than 7,500 witnesses and more than 9,600 family members or associates. The objectives of this OIG audit were to evaluate the USMS’s plans and strategies to achieve WITSEC’s security objectives; the program’s controls for witness safety; and its internal controls for financial activities, including payments to protected witnesses and their families.
An OIG survey of 300 WITSEC program participants revealed that they felt a high degree of satisfaction with the program. A high percentage of the survey respondents reported that security measures were adequate to protect them and their families and that they had not experienced problems under the program that could have been avoided.
However, our audit identified numerous weaknesses in need of correction, including: 1) declining staff levels in relation to an increasing witness population, 2) significant involvement of WITSEC operational staff in non-WITSEC protective assignments, 3) failure to ensure proper completion of secrecy agreements by individuals who work in WITSEC, 4) failure to ensure timely completion of preliminary interviews with prospective witnesses, 5) morale problems stemming from the low grade level of WITSEC inspectors, 6) the need for an employment specialist at USMS Headquarters to assist local WITSEC staff in securing jobs for relocated participants, 7) continuing weaknesses in financial management practices and the management information system, and 8) weak management oversight of the program.
Our report contained 21 recommendations to improve the management of WITSEC, including to install and utilize communications equipment at additional sites to reduce travel and in-person meetings required of program participants, and improve the management oversight of WITSEC through quarterly inspections of field offices and requiring that periodic cash counts are performed by field staff. The USMS agreed to implement corrective measures for 20 of the recommendations.
The OIG reviewed the USMS’s program for conducting background investigations of job applicants and periodic reinvestigations of its employees and contractors. We found that the USMS placed employees and contractors in national security or public trust positions only after the background field investigation was completed or it had issued a waiver in accordance with federal regulations and USMS policy. However, we identified several deficiencies in the USMS’s background investigation program:
We made seven recommendations to help the USMS address these deficiencies. Among the recommendations were that the USMS develop written policy and procedures that address all aspects of the background investigation process, implement procedures to improve the accuracy of its databases, and begin conducting background reinvestigations on contractors who carry weapons and have law enforcement responsibilities. The USMS generally concurred with our recommendations.
The USMS houses more than 47,000 detainees throughout the nation and is responsible for their transportation from the time they are brought into federal custody until they either are acquitted or incarcerated. To house the detainees, the USMS executes contracts known as Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGA) with state and local governments to rent jail space. According to the USMS, 75 percent of the detainees in USMS custody are detained in state, local, and private facilities.
During this reporting period, we completed audits of two high-dollar IGAs that the USMS awarded to local governments for the housing and transportation of federal detainees. Our audits found:
During this reporting period, the OIG received 137 complaints involving the USMS. The most common allegations made against USMS employees included job performance failure, off-duty misconduct, other official misconduct, and use of unnecessary force.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 20 open cases of alleged misconduct against USMS employees. The following are examples of cases involving the USMS that the OIG investigated:
The OIG is examining the effectiveness of the USMS’s Fugitive Apprehension Program in apprehending violent fugitives. The review will assess the ability of the USMS, particularly the five Regional Fugitive Task Forces that it operates, to locate and apprehend dangerous fugitives.
The USMS employs thousands of independent contractors for prisoner handling activities. Unlike contracts with guard company vendors, which may be managed by the districts or by USMS headquarters, procurement of independent contractors is a decentralized function in which contracting officers in the districts contract with individuals for the necessary guard services. Independent contractors constitute a core part of the USMS’s workforce in many districts, sometimes accounting for more than 50 percent of the total hours charged to prisoner handling activities. The OIG is assessing the USMS’s internal controls over the procurement of independent contractors for guard service, whether the USMS is adequately monitoring the performance of its independent contract guards, whether independent contractors are meeting the USMS’s experience and fitness-for-duty requirements, and whether independent contractors are performing only authorized duties.