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IG's Report on NOAA law enforcement

IG's Report on NOAA law enforcement

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Inspector General of the Department of Commerce: Initial report on law enforcement practices inside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Inspector General of the Department of Commerce: Initial report on law enforcement practices inside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Published by: Gloucester Daily Times on Jan 21, 2010
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05/25/2012

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
 Review of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Programs andOperations
 Final Report No
.
OIG-19887 January 2010Office of Investigations
U.S. DEPARTMENT  OF COMMERCE Office of Inspector General 
 
 
and examine individual cases about which we received complaints and will determine whetheradditional action by our office or NOAA is necessary or recommended. Based on our review todate, allegations of abusive treatment are not widespread; however, I feel that it is important thatwe do all we can to get to the bottom of these concerns and the facts surrounding these cases.Our review also experienced two additional limitations. First, inadequate managementinformation systems were a significant detriment. As we further explain below, if NOAA is to besuccessful in bringing a greater level of management attention to its enforcement program, it willneed substantially improved data systems. This is one of our overarching findings.Second, we were also constrained in our ability to address concerns raised about the assetforfeiture fund, as NOAA refers to it. Although one of our objectives was to examine this fund,we found that despite a balance of $8.4 million as of December 31, 2009, OLE officials are notaware of the fund’s having ever been audited. We found that while the fund’s balance is includedin the Department’s overall financial statements, internal controls over the fund are not tested aspart of the Department’s annual financial statement audit due to the relatively small size of thefund. We are commissioning a forensic review of the fund as a follow up to this review.We spoke with over 225 individuals in various parts of the country, including the Northeast,North Carolina, Florida, the west coast, and Alaska. Persons with whom we spoke includedfishermen, boat captains, industry association representatives, conservation officials, FisheryManagement Council members, and NOAA personnel from OLE, GCEL, and otherorganizations. Our discussions consisted of formal interviews, small group listening sessions,telephone conversations, and follow-up contacts. Additionally, we established a dedicated e-mailaddress for interested parties to use to provide potentially relevant information. We alsoreviewed numerous OLE and GCEL enforcement records and related documents and pertinentstatutes and regulations, and examined OLE’s and GCEL’s case management informationsystems.Finally, we reviewed Department of Justice policy and guidelines regarding certain enforcementtechniques, and analyzed comparable federal regulatory enforcement agencies, namely theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior’s Fish and WildlifeService, and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. Our review teamconsisted of Office of Inspector General staff from across several disciplines and areas of expertise, including program evaluation, criminal investigation, forensic audit, and risk analysis.We appreciate the cooperation extended to our team by you and the NOAA staff, and yourresolve to address this longstanding issue. We have highlighted the reforms that NOAA alreadyhas planned in response to the briefings on our findings that we delivered. We will complete ourfollow-up work as expeditiously as possible and provide a similar report at that time.
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