High Risk Series

Asset Forfeiture Programs Gao ID: HR-95-7 February 1, 1995

In 1990, GAO began a special effort to identify federal programs at high risk of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. GAO issued a series of reports in December 1992 on the fundamental causes of the problems in the high-risk areas. This report on asset forfeiture programs is part of the second series that updates the status of this high-risk area. Readers have the following three options in ordering the high-risk series: (1) request any of the individual reports in the series, including the Overview (HR-95-1), the Guide (HR-95-2), or any of the 10 issue area reports; (2) request the Overview and the Guide as a package (HR-95-21SET); or (3) request the entire series as a package (HR-95-20SET).

GAO found that: (1) the government has lost significant revenues because seized property has not been properly cared for; (2) despite legislation that requires Justice and the Department of the Treasury to develop a plan to consolidate their postseizure administration, they continue to operate two similar but separate seized asset management and disposal programs; (3) questions remain as to whether forfeiture laws and the proceeds from these asset forfeiture programs are being applied appropriately; (4) although some management and systems changes have improved program operations, serious internal control weaknesses affect Customs' ability to control, manage, and report the results of its seizure efforts; (5) the Customs Commissioner has established a senior management task force to review the entire seized property program; (6) problems persist with the Marshals Service's disposal of seized and forfeited property; (7) DOJ and Treasury have made significant progress in consolidating postseizure management of noncash seized property, strengthening the asset forfeiture program's integrity, and ensuring that asset forfeiture laws are applied appropriately; (8) although there have been significant improvements in seized and forfeited assets management, some significant problems remain and the Marshals Service and Customs need to continue their oversight of their asset forfeiture programs.

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