Treasury told to fine-tune law enforcement performance measures

The Treasury Department needs to better explain how its enforcement activities protect the public from such crimes as drug trafficking and terrorism, according to a report by the agency's inspector general.

The department must develop a "clear and complete" set of outcome-related performance measures for federal law enforcement activities, according to a November IG report, "Better Performance Measures Are Needed for Treasury Enforcement Programs (OIG-02-013).

Treasury enforcement agencies, including the Customs Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Secret Service, should also coordinate their efforts and collaborate with the Justice Department where possible to develop stronger performance measures for more accurate reporting under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, the report said.

"Treasury enforcement operations have a greater impact and broader scope than what is currently reported," the report said. Although Treasury is developing and reporting better measures, the lack of clear performance measures is "substantial and long-standing, and will not be quickly or easily resolved."

The IG's report looked at Treasury's performance measures in three major areas of enforcement: combating money laundering and other financial crimes; protecting the nation's borders and major ports from drug traffickers and smugglers; and reducing violent crime and the threat of terrorism.

The IG acknowledged the difficulty in creating performance measures for enforcement activities that often involve undercover operations and the participation of various federal, state, local and foreign agencies, but also noted that those obstacles must be overcome to help stakeholders make important policy and budget decisions.

"Performance goals are of minimal value for congressional decision-makers without a connection to the resources requested," the study said.

For example, according to the IG's report, Treasury's current performance measures for drug interdiction focus primarily on seizures, but do not clearly demonstrate whether changes in the number of seizures are the result of successful interdiction or a change in the volume or methods of smuggling. Also, Treasury and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy do not agree on the methodology used to calculate certain drug estimates, creating more confusion, the report noted.

Treasury's measures for reducing the threat of terrorism in its fiscal 1999 and 2000 performance reports also did not provide an accurate picture of whether the department was meeting its goal, the study concluded.

The IG's report made several recommendations, including urging Treasury to work closely with Justice and the Office of National Drug Control Policy on developing consistent performance measures for drug interdiction and on using seizure rates as a percentage of total estimates when evaluating drug and money laundering enforcement activities. The report also urged Treasury to use quantitative measures, which are more reliable, instead of qualitative measures to evaluate the department's effectiveness in reducing violent crime and terrorism.

In general, Treasury's Office of Enforcement agreed with the IG's findings and recommendations, but expressed doubt that valid estimates of economic activity in drug trafficking and money laundering could ever be developed in an area "where the goal of activity itself is concealment from the government," James Gurulé, Treasury's undersecretary of enforcement, said in his comments.

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