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Inspector General report claims CBP risked officer safety through international mail management failures

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) failed to properly resolve and monitor issues at International Mail Facilities (IMF), leading to wasted dollars and risks to both officers and its larger mission, according to a newly released report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

CBP oversees international mail, partly as a means of interdicting illegal drugs. The OIG audited these international operations to assess how they were doing, and in the process, made three recommendations to improve their safety and management.

The first was for CBP to evaluate all IMF space agreements and identify unusable space to save money, while revising agreements with unusable space. A second recommendation urged the CBP Office of Facilities and Asset Management to evaluate IMFs and lease agreements and move to ensure safety and their capabilities to meet screening requirements. Finally, the OIG recommended that the same CBP office develop and institute a process for escalating and resolving local and regional facility issues.

In each case, the CBP agreed and stated that it would move forward to make them happen.

The question remains of why, though. Essentially, the OIG concluded critical maintenance and life safety efficiencies were left to fester at six IMFs. At the same time, the CBP paid for unusable space at two IMFs and even allowed a lapsed space agreement at the San Juan IMF that saw it operating out of temporary locations for more than six years. In that case, the IMF was even based at a parking lot for a period of time as a result.

The Inspector General noted that failure to renegotiate space agreements cost the government $3.2 million in funds that could have been better used elsewhere. Meanwhile, the failure to address issues meant that in the case of San Juan, officers had only limited ability to conduct mail screening operations, while at the six other cited IMFs, officer safety itself was at risk.

Chris Galford

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