DHS' IG office bustles in second half of 2006

OIG Semiannual Report to Congress

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The second half of the 2006 fiscal year was a busy one for the Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General’s office (OIG), with examinations of the aftermath of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes crowding a calendar already full of investigations into the sprawling organization’s various programs.

The IG’s office said in its semiannual report to Congress it issued a total of 33 management reports and 308 investigative reports between April and the end of September, and period audits questioned more than $46 million in costs, of which nearly $14 million was found to be unsupported.

But it was the Gulf Coast hurricanes that took up the most focused attention. With Congress still pushing for explanations of the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, the OIG’s Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery team used about 100 of the office’s 540 employees. During the six-month period, it churned out 29 reports.

One of the most publicized of those reports was an investigation the OIG conducted with the Government Accountability Office into the use of federal purchase cards, which concluded that there had been a widespread breakdown in oversight and controls.

GAO and the OIG estimated that about 45 percent of DHS’ purchase card transactions were not properly authorized, 63 percent did not have evidence that goods or services were received, and more than half did not give priority to the designated government sources.

The OIG report found that a weak control environment led to “numerous potentially fraudulent, improper and abusive or questionable transactions” and recommended agencywide changes to the way purchase cards are handled within DHS.

The OIG also looked at various information technology programs during the six-month period. In particular, it found deficiencies in laptop computer security, including in the IG’s office. And it also found that the heavily touted Homeland Security Information Network could not yet support information sharing among federal, state and local government agencies.

Besides the costs it identified through formal audits, the OIG found nearly $74 million in funding that it said could have been put to better use throughout DHS during the six-month period.

The investigations also resulted in 321 arrests, 333 indictments and 243 convictions. Additional recoveries, restitutions, fines and cost savings totaled more than $20 million.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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