Seized Drugs and Firearms: FBI Needs to Improve Certain Physical Safeguards and Strengthen Accountability: AIMD-00-18

December 1999
GAO Reports;12/16/1999, p1
Government Document
During the last decade, GAO has periodically reported on government operations at "high risk" for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. One of these operations is the asset forfeiture program run by the Justice Department. Seized items typically remain in an agency's custody until used as evidence by federal prosecutors. This report focuses on the FBI's controls over seized drugs and firearms. Each of the four FBI field offices GAO reviewed had established physical safeguards in accordance with key FBI policy directives. However, overcrowding and inadequate packaging of drug evidence and improper maintenance of the night depository in the drug vault at one of the FBI field offices GAO visited increased the risk of theft, misuse, and loss of evidence. Also, inadequate ventilation in the drug vault at one field office could potentially harm the health and safety of evidence control workers. The FBI's ability to account for drug and firearms evidence was hampered at the field offices GAO reviewed by incomplete and missing information on chain of custody documents, the failure to promptly issue and reconcile reports that are used to verify the location of evidence, and poor documentation of bulk drug seizures. Notwithstanding these problems, FBI personnel were able to locate each item that GAO chose for testing at the field offices; for those items not in storage, they provided documentation supporting the current location or status of the item. GAO identified several instances in which evidence control personnel or FBI agents entered evidence into the FBI's Automated Case Support System late without the required explanatory memoranda. While reviewing selected drug items in storage at the four field offices, GAO noted many discrepancies between the actual weight of drug items observed during GAO's testing and the weight of these items recorded on attached evidence labels, which should reflect the current weight of the item, including packaging.


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