Customs Service Loses 2,251 Computers

August 8, 2002. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill requesting that a report written by the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the loss of computers and other items by the U.S. Customs Service be made public. Sen. Grassley wrote in this letter that "The report on Customs states that the Customs Service -- an agency whose responsibilities include tracking material -- has managed to lose or have stolen a stunning 2,251 computers."

The OIG report is titled "Protecting the Public: U.S. Customs Control Over Sensitive Property Needs To Be Improved". It is numbered OIG-02-109, and dated August 5, 2002.
Sen. Charles

Sen. Grassley further wrote that "the U.S. Customs Service (Customs) maintains that the Treasury OIG report is ``Law Enforcement Sensitive´´ and should not be disclosed to the public. Customs' position is simply untenable. I am very concerned that Customs' view is that because information is embarrassing to management that justifies that it be labeled Law Enforcement Sensitive. Management at Customs may be sensitive to a report that shows significant waste of taxpayer money but that does not justify seeking to suppress the information."

Sen. Grassley also suggested that the actual number of lost computers could be higher than 2,251. He wrote that this number "represents approximately 5 percent of total FY 2001 inventory. The situation is so bad at Customs that the IG stated: ``We judged the risk of loss or theft of computers to be high.´´ Even more troubling, the report stated that this number may be low because: `` ... [Customs] lacked reliable property records and physical inventories for computers there was no reasonable assurance that the information on Customs' computer inventory and losses was reliable.´´"