INS in disarray, GAO says

Newswatch on federal workers

January 30, 1991|By Mick Rood | Mick Rood,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- Disorganization and weak management reign at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to the General Accounting Office, which recently issued one of the toughest reports it has done on a federal agency.

Take this scathing capsule from the auditors:

"The agency has degenerated into a group of segmenteautonomous programs, each trying to handle its own set of problems with little attention given to their interrelatedness. Without coherent overall direction and basic management reforms, the organization has been unable to effectively address changing enforcement responsibilities and long-standing service delivery problems."

Normally, agency heads at the other end of GAO's criticacomments respond in kind, contesting points made by Congress' investigative arm. Not in this case. Both INS and its parent agency, the Department of Justice, begged off to requests for commentary, largely because Justice has a senior executive task force investigating what it calls "long-standing" INS programs.

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh launched the probe iNovember after seeing a draft of the GAO report. Reform recommendations are expected sometime in February. Amid rumors that INS Commissioner Gene McNary may be on the way out, GAO has also asked the Senate and House Judiciary committees to hold oversight hearings on the disarray at INS.

The GAO report is replete with descriptions of a divided agencwhose various fiefdoms overlap in jurisdiction and communicate poorly with each other.

After questioning more than 2,000 INS supervisors anmanagers, GAO found that fully three-fourths of the enforcement managers believed some part of their work was duplicated by other units in the agency. In particular, auditors cited overlapping activities of the INS Border Patrol and its Investigations Division.

For example, the Border Patrol has established offices in placesuch as Grand Rapids, Mich., Roseberg, Ore., and Dallas -- far from physical U.S. borders. The GAO said maintaining these offices reduced the time the patrol could spend on its primary mission of controlling the borders.

The GAO also raised these issues:

* Increased arrests of aliens has crowded detention facilitiesince the aliens cannot be easily deported.

* Spending on adjudication of alien cases has doubled in fouyears. But the average time it takes to process a case far exceeds the agency's standard of four months. In Miami, it takes a year; in Chicago, more than two years.

* Staff shortages are reported everywhere. The INS guideline foproper staffing is one inspector for every 200,000 inspections a year. At the busy land border crossing in San Ysidro, Calif., the actual ratio is 533,000 inspections for each inspector.

* The INS budget process apparently is in chaos. GAO said thagency's total for unexpended funds was $246 million in September 1989. But when it compiled monthly INS spending reports, GAP found the balance to be $152 million.

2 additions:

As the House organized its committees last week, the only two additions to the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, which has jurisdiction over most federal employee legislation, were good news for government reform advocates.

First-year Rep. James P. Moran Jr., D-Va., and Del. EleanoHolmes Norton, D-D.C., were named. They joined Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-8th, on the pivotal panel. Their appointments give the region, which contains far and away the most federal employees, representation from each area jurisdiction.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, remains on the AppropriationCommittee, where he perennially goes to bat for federal employee pay and benefits. He packs more clout than do most middle-seniority members of the money committee because he is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Hoyer also took on a second committee where he could affecthe federal employees who work for Congress. He now sits on the House Administration Committee, which controls how the House spends its operations money.

If a federal employee wins an award, he or she can get government-paid travel expenses for "a very significant other" to the awards ceremony.

That's the word from the Office of Personnel Managementwhich has amended the Federal Personnel Manual to read:

"The [reimbursed] travel is normally limited to one individual othe award winner's choosing. That person can be any individual related by blood or affinity, whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship."

OPM told the National Treasury Employees Union about thchange this month. The union had asked for the new definition of an "immediate relative" who would qualify for an expenses-paid trip.

"We're proud to be responsible for such a fair reimbursemenstandard that doesn't discriminate against unmarried employees," said NTEU President Robert M. Tobias. "Every employee, not just married ones, should be able to share an important moment like receiving an award with a very important person in their lives."

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