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Justice IG: Marshals Service oversight of more than $521M lacking

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An audit by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General on Wednesday challenged oversight by the U.S. Marshals Service of more than $521 million in purchases during a two-year period, saying there was insufficient training for contracting personnel, ineffective management and review of procurement activities, and decentralized management of buying within the agency.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, in a 20-page report, said the Marshals Service did not fully comply with federal regulations and departmental policies in its award and administration of procurement actions; its internal controls were not fully effective at ensuring adequate oversight of procurement actions; and its management of vendor purchases did not ensure vendor billings were accurate.

The report said the agency made 455,000 purchases totaling more than $521 million from October 2009 through March 2011.

"Specifically, the audit found that USMS procurement officials did not always maintain appropriate and necessary documentation in acquisition files to support the purchases reviewed," Mr. Horowitz said, noting that approximately 20 percent of the procurement requests reviewed did not reflect the required advance approvals, and approximately 17 percent of the requests did not reflect the required certifications that funds were available to make the purchase.

"In addition," he said, "the acquisition files for approximately 31 percent of the purchases reviewed did not include documents confirming that the purchased items had been received."

According to the report, the audit also found that the procurement files associated with limited competition and sole-source purchases did not always include the required justifications for deviating from the principles of full and open competition.

Also, it said auditors found weaknesses that reflected ineffective oversight of procurement activities, including the purchase of two fully automatic firearms without the required approvals.

Mr. Horowitz made 12 recommendations to the Marshals Service to improve the procurement practices, including re‑emphasizing the procurement policies and procedures that must be followed; developing a tracking system to monitor the training of all procurement staff; and establishing a process for following up on issues identified during agency internal reviews.

The Marshals Service agreed with the recommendations.

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