Customs Service

Status of the Implementation of Blue Ribbon Panel Recommendations Gao ID: GGD-96-163 September 3, 1996

Because of allegations of corruption, harassment, and retaliation; charges of mismanagement; and "old-boy" network concerns in the U.S. Customs Service's Southwest Region, the Commissioner of Customs appointed a "blue ribbon" panel to look into these matters. The panel issued a report in 1991. Customs accepted the findings and recommendations and assembled a comprehensive implementation plan. In 1995, Customs provided GAO with information on the actions it had taken on each recommendation; Customs updated the information in 1996. GAO supplemented that information through interviews with Customs officials. GAO found that most of the recommendations were at least partially implemented. The heads of the offices on which the panel focused--the Office of Investigations and the Office of Internal Affairs--generally believed that the problems cited by the panel had diminished significantly. The officials said that they had instituted processes to alert their offices of systemic problem areas.

GAO found that Customs: (1) accepted the findings of the panel and took steps to rectify the problems identified by the panel; (2) restructured its Office of Internal Affairs to address issues of political corruption, mismanagement, and serious noncriminal misconduct; (3) established a direct line of authority in its Office of Enforcement to eliminate confusion among the many competing lines of authority noted by the panel in its recommendations; (4) strengthened its policy on managerial accountability; (5) created internal inspection programs to ensure that employees' ethical conduct is in compliance with the panel's recommendations; and (6) implemented its policy for protecting whistleblowers, as recommended.

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