Components at the Department of Homeland Security need to do more to ensure that their corrective actions undertaken in employee misconduct cases are timely and effective, according to a Government Accountability Office report released to the public Aug. 30.

Officials at the Customs and Border Protection, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration did not consistently monitor internal controls for handling employee misconduct, the report said.

“Given the number of employee misconduct cases these components handle annually, it is important that the processes they use have internal controls to ensure quality and independence, the data in the management system is complete and reliable and cases are processed in a timely manner according to established performance targets,” the report said.

“While CBP, ICE and TSA have established internal controls related to processing allegations of misconduct, they do not consistently document key control activities each considers important to ensuring the quality and independence of the process. Specifically, providing guidance on consistently documenting key control activities, such as when legal review occurs, would give each component’s management greater assurance that their processes mitigate associated risk.”

According to the report, the components also had mixed results in completing misconduct adjudication within the timeliness targets, with average total durations ranging from 19 to 434 days.

CBP, for example, met its timeliness targets for criminal investigations 93 percent of the time, while targets for noncriminal investigations at the same agency were only met 40 percent of the time.

The report made 18 recommendations — six each for CBP, TSA and ICE — with the following five recommendations the same across all three:

  1. The leader of the component should revise policy or guidance to ensure documentation of required control activities in its case management system.
  2. The component leader should monitor the duration of all cases.
  3. The component leader should monitor the timeliness of misconduct cases against established targets.
  4. The component leader should define and document data fields in the case management system used for monitoring performance targets.
  5. The component should modify annual self-inspection programs (CBP and TSA by including evaluation and testing of internal controls related to the employee misconduct process; ICE by tracking the status of related corrective actions to ensure timely implementation).

Other recommendations included having the commissioner of CBP and director of ICE require documentation of investigative findings in their case management systems and that the administrator of TSA develop a method for more easily connecting cases between the databases used for employee misconduct cases.

DHS agreed with all recommendations made by GAO.

Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.

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