Customs and INS:

Random Inspection Programs Can Be Strengthened

GAO-02-215R: Published: Dec 3, 2001. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 2001.

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This report reviews the U.S. Customs Service's Compliance Measurement Examination (COMPEX) and Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Inspections Traveler Examination (INTEX). These programs, which help Customs and INS assess the nature and extent of enforcement risks at ports of entry, compare violations found during targeted inspections with violations found during random inspections. GAO found that both Customs and INS inspectors did not always adhere to guidance on sample selection and did not always conduct inspections with the minimum level of thoroughness required. As a result, statistical data generated by the programs may not reliably reflect the extent to which travelers who seek entry into the U.S. are in violation of customs or immigration laws. GAO also found that the COMPEX and INTEX programs both draw from the same population of international travelers; have similar purposes and goals; and often use Customs and INS inspectors who work side by side, particularly at land border ports of entry. Customs and INS might realize efficiencies if the two programs were combined.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Customs has yet to provide GAO with any time table for implementing this recommendation. However, from preliminary discussions with Customs officials, it appears unlikely that any updating on random inspection programs will occur while Customs is operating at level 1 alert status, and its proposed inclusion and structure in the proposed Department of Homeland Security is still unclear. INS stated that it will move forward with the development of on-site training at such time as a new viable measurement program is developed, intended to be finalized by September 2002. In view of Customs and INS being merged into DHS in March 2003, GAO is closing this recommendation as not implemented. With an entirely new DHS structure and a melding of border resources including those from legacy Customs and INS, DHS will need to develop entirely new random inspection processes and strategies, obviating the need for refresher training on the prior inspection processes.

    Recommendation: To better coordinate random inspection efforts and to increase the efficiency and quality of the random inspection process, Customs and INS should consider refresher training or other reminders to inspectors conducting random inspections on proper random selection procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Customs has yet to provide GAO with any time table for implementing this recommendation. However, from preliminary discussions with Customs officials, it appears unlikely that any updating on random inspection programs will occur while Customs is operating at level 1 alert status, and its proposed inclusion and structure in the proposed Department of Homeland Security is still unclear. INS stated that it plans to develop a new methodology to measure the effectiveness of inspections, and will work with Customs to determine if there are measurement methodologies that could serve both agencies' needs. GAO is however, closing this recommendation as not implemented because as of March 2003, Customs and INS were merged into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With an entirely new DHS structure and melding of border resources including those from legacy Customs and INS, DHS will need to develop an entirely new random inspection program, which obviates the need for combining the prior two Customs and INS random inspection programs.

    Recommendation: To better coordinate random inspection efforts and to increase the efficiency and quality of the random inspection process, Customs and INS should explore the feasibility of combining their random inspection programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

 

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