Written submission of Glenn A. Fine, Acting Inspector General U.S. Department of Justice
before the House Judiciary Committee concerning
The Office of the Inspector Generalís Investigation of Misconduct and Mismanagement at ICITAP, OPDAT, and the Criminal Divisionís Office of Administration
September 21, 2000
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Conyers, and Members of the Committee on the Judiciary:
I. Introduction and Background
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the Committee to discuss the Office of the Inspector Generalís (OIG) investigation into allegations of misconduct and mismanagement at three offices in the Department of Justiceís Criminal Division. In this review, the OIG examined activities in ICITAP (known formally as the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, an office that provides training for foreign police agencies in new and emerging democracies), OPDAT (the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training that trains prosecutors and judges in foreign countries in coordination with United States Embassies and other government agencies), and the Criminal Divisionís Office of Administration.
ICITAP was created in 1986 and although it is part of the Department of Justice, the Department of State funds its programs. OPDAT, created in 1991, is similarly funded. Both ICITAP and OPDAT are headed by Directors, with a Coordinator overseeing the management of both organizations. The Criminal Divisionís Office of Administration handles the administrative functions for the Criminal Division, including personnel, budget, information technology, and procurement matters. The Executive Officer heads the Office of Administration.
ICITAP had a history of turmoil even prior to the time period we examined in this review. Four different individuals served as Director or Acting Director between 1994 and 1997. During that period, the OIG conducted two reviews into allegations of misconduct and the Criminal Division examined ICITAPís organizational structure and financial systems. The OIG ís 1994 reports found some wasteful and questionable practices and weaknesses in planning and communications, but not misconduct.
The OIG investigation that formed the basis of this report began in 1997 when an OPDAT employee reported to the Departmentís security staff that an ICITAP senior manager had provided classified documents to persons who did not have security clearances. The Departmentís security staff and the OIG confirmed the allegation. The OIG continued the investigation to determine the extent of security problems at ICITAP and later broadened the investigation after receiving numerous allegations regarding failure to follow or enforce government rules on ethics, security, travel, and contracts at ICITAP, OPDAT, and the Office of Administration.
Many of the allegations concerned the actions of Robert K. Bratt, a senior Department official who was the Criminal Division Executive Officer in charge of the Office of Administration. At different times between 1995 and 1997, Bratt served as the Acting Director of ICITAP and the Coordinator of both ICITAP and OPDAT before he was detailed to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in April 1997.
The OIG investigative team was led by an Assistant United States Attorney from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on detail to the OIG and composed of OIG investigators, auditors, an inspector, and a program analyst. In addition, an employee from the Department of Justice security office and a special agent from the Department of State assisted with certain aspects of the investigation.
We interviewed several hundred witnesses in the course of this investigation, most in Washington, D.C. but also in other cities in the United States and abroad. In order to fully investigate several of the more serious allegations, OIG investigators traveled to Haiti and Russia to interview witnesses. In addition, the OIG team reviewed thousands of pages of documents.
We found that Bratt and other managers committed serious misconduct. As a result of our substantiating many of the allegations, we recommend discipline or repayment of funds for six employees or former employees. We also recommend that the Department of Justice consider systemic improvements to enhance the performance of other managers, employees, and offices.
Our complete 415-page report contains 11 chapters and several exhibits. In this written statement, I will summarize our major findings.
II. Issuance of Visas to Russian Women
Bratt made four trips to Russia in late 1996 and 1997 in conjunction with his duties as Coordinator of ICITAP and OPDAT. We received several allegations of impropriety relating to these trips, the most serious being that Bratt and Criminal Division Associate Executive Officer Joseph R. Lake, Jr. improperly used their government positions to obtain visas for two Russian women.
Russians seeking to visit the United States in 1997 had two methods of obtaining visas from the American Embassy in Moscow: the standard process and the "referral" process. The standard process could be used by any Russian seeking to visit the United States and required applicants to wait in long lines at the American Embassy in Moscow to submit their applications. In addition, the process included an interview by an American Embassy official who could deny the application if, among other reasons, the official did not believe the applicant had established that he or she would return to Russia.
The referral process could be used in much more limited circumstances and required that the applicantís visit be supported by a humanitarian basis or a United States government interest. In the referral process, the visa application was submitted by an Embassy official who completed a form approved by an Embassy Section Chief setting forth the United States government interest in the applicantís visit. No interview was required, and the use of the referral process generally ensured that the applicant would receive a visa.
Two Russian citizens who Bratt met on his second trip to Moscow and with whom he thereafter socialized extensively Ė Elena Koreneva and Ludmilla Bolgak Ė received visas on April 7, 1997, to visit the United States. They received the visas because Lake submitted their applications using the referral process and purported that a government interest existed for their visit to the United States. Lake wrote on the referral form that
"[a]pplicants have worked with the Executive Officer (EO) Criminal Division in support of administrative functions, Moscow Office. EO feels thatfor [sic] the above persons to visit HQs, Wash., D.C. and metropolitan area would broaden appreciation of Divís national and international functions, and to acquaint them with out [sic] Govt. institutions, economy, culture, and lifestyle. Such experience and familarization [sic] can only have positive impact on their return."
He signed it "Joe Lake for BB." In addition to being the ICITAP and OPDAT Coordinator, Bratt retained the title and many of the responsibilities of the Executive Officer.
We determined that neither woman had ever worked for Bratt or the Criminal Division and that the United States government had no official interest in the womenís visit. Therefore, the statement on the referral form was false.
Based on our investigation, we concluded that Bratt and Lake used the referral process even though they were aware that it required a government interest in the women ís visit and that no such government interest existed. Although they both denied knowingly misusing the visa process, we did not find their explanations or denials credible. We concluded that both Bratt and Lake committed egregious misconduct in obtaining visas for the two women in this fashion. 1
The OIG report also addresses the security implications raised by Brattís involvement with Koreneva. Bratt held a high-level security clearance and had access to highly classified documents. Despite knowing little about the Russian women, he socialized with them, developed an intimate relationship with one, invited them to visit him in the United States, and improperly helped them obtain visas even after he was told that one of them had been denied a visa on a prior occasion. He did not report his contacts with the women to the Department of Justiceís security office in a timely fashion (as required by Department policy), and when he did he failed to fully describe his relationship with Koreneva. We concluded that Brattís intimate involvement with a Russian citizen about whom he knew very little, his invitation to her to visit the United States, his help in obtaining visas for them, and his attempt to conceal the true nature of his relationship with Koreneva left him vulnerable to blackmail and represented a security concern.
III. Security Failures at ICITAP
On April 14, 1997, the Department of Justice Security and Emergency Planning Staff (SEPS) conducted an unannounced, after-hours sweep of the ICITAP offices after receiving an allegation that an ICITAP manager had improperly given classified documents to ICITAP staff who did not have security clearances. During that sweep and a follow-up review conducted by the Criminal Division Security Staff, 156 classified documents were found unsecured in the office of ICITAP Associate Director Joseph Trincellito. The OIG and SEPS probed further to determine the extent of ICITAPís security problems and ICITAP managementís responsibility for the security failures.
The OIG found that the problems discovered in the 1997 security reviews had existed for many years. Evidence showed that senior managers provided or attempted to provide classified documents to uncleared consultants or other staff. ICITAP employees, including senior managers, routinely left classified documents unsecured on desks, including when individuals were away from their offices on travel. We found one instance where classified information was sent over an unsecure e-mail system. ICITAP managers also improperly took classified documents home. Highly classified documents containing Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), or "codeword" information, were brought to the ICITAP offices even though ICITAP did not have the type of secure facility (a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or "SCIF") required to read or store such material. The evidence also showed that ICITAP inaccurately certified to United States Embassies that individuals had security clearances when they did not.
As an example of the inattention ICITAP managers gave to security, our report sets forth the troubling history of ICITAP Associate Director Trincellitoís handling of classified information. From 1995 through early 1997, ICITAPís security officers repeatedly found classified documents left unattended in Trincellitoís office and warned him that he was violating security rules. They also notified other ICITAP managers about the problem. One security officer, after becoming aware of repeated violations, documented the violations in writing and recommended discipline for Trincellito although none was ever imposed. The ICITAP Director on occasion spoke to Trincellito about his violations and attempted to make it easier for him to comply with security rules by putting a safe in his office. However, in the face of repeated violations, we found that senior ICITAP managers failed to take sufficient action, such as initiating discipline, to ensure that Trincellito complied with security regulations.
We concluded that ICITAP managersí own violations of the security rules and their tolerance of known violations sent a message that security of classified documents was not important at ICITAP. We also found that the Criminal Division did not adequately supervise ICITAPís security program even though security reviews conducted by both SEPS and the Criminal Division beginning in 1994 showed a pattern of security violations.
IV. Travel Abuses
Bratt and other ICITAP and OPDAT managers violated government travel regulations by flying business class without authorization and by using frequent flyer miles accrued on government travel for personal purposes, among other violations. Government and Department of Justice travel regulations restrict the use of business class by government travelers. Even in circumstances when business class may be used, it must be authorized by the travelerís supervisor. On none of these trips was Brattís use of business class authorized. On one trip, we found that ICITAP and OPDAT managers made travel decisions for personal reasons, such as where to spend the weekend and what airline to use, that unnecessarily increased the cost of the trip. On three trips, we found that Bratt and other travelers improperly invoked the "14-hour rule" that allows authorized travelers to fly business class when a flight, including layovers, is longer than 14 hours. One these trips, the Departmentís travel agency had suggested an alternative itinerary that would have saved the government substantial money. However, in each case the less expensive itinerary was rejected.
We found that Bratt, contrary to travel regulations, repeatedly approved his own travel requests or had subordinates approve them. In addition, the majority of travel vouchers Bratt submitted for reimbursement were either signed by Bratt, his subordinates, or someone at the same rank as Bratt Ė again, a violation of travel regulations that require approval of all government travel by an official occupying a higher rank than the traveler.
We found that the Justice Management Division (JMD), which is responsible for auditing foreign travel vouchers, did not question the use of business class travel by Bratt or the other managers who accompanied him even when a lack of authorization was apparent on the face of the travel documents.
During the course of the investigation we also found that ICITAP, OPDAT, and Office of Administration managers violated other government travel regulations, including those involving the use of frequent flyer benefits. For example, we concluded that Bratt and others used government-earned frequent flyer miles for personal use in violation of Department regulations.
V. Lake Buyout
Lake retired from the federal government on March 31, 1997, after receiving $25,000 as part of a government-wide buyout program to encourage eligible federal employees to retire. At the time of his retirement, Lake was in Moscow for OPDAT preparing for an OPDAT conference. The following day, Lake began working for OPDAT as a consultant and continued his OPDAT work in Moscow. Lake also worked as a consultant to the INS at Brattís request beginning in May 1997 after Bratt began work there.
The buyout program prohibited former federal employees from returning to government service as either employees or as contractors working under a "personal services" contract for five years after their retirement. (A personal services contract is defined by federal regulations as "a contract that, by its express terms or as administered, makes the contractor personnel appear, in effect, [to be] Government employees.") Violation of the prohibition requires repayment of the incentive bonus.
We found that while at OPDAT and INS after his retirement, Lake was performing personal services in violation of the buyout program requirements.
VI. Harris Contract
Jo Ann Harris resigned as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division in August 1995. In December 1996, Harris was hired as an OPDAT consultant to organize, moderate, and evaluate three conferences that OPDAT was planning to hold at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest, Hungary, and to develop curriculum for other OPDAT training programs. The OIG investigated allegations that the award of this contract to Harris violated ethical rules that prohibit contracting with former government officials on a preferential basis.
Because no competition was involved in awarding Harrisí contract, we evaluated its propriety under the rules pertaining to sole-source contracts. Sole-source contracts, which do not require the solicitation of competing bids, may be awarded when the exigencies of time or the consultantís expertise justify the waiver of the competitive process. We concluded that OPDAT could have awarded a sole-source contract to Harris for her work on the ILEA conferences given her extensive experience and the short time frame that existed to prepare for the conference. However, we concluded that Brattís decision to hire Harris for curriculum development was not similarly justified and created the appearance of favoritism. We found that Bratt discussed with Harris what projects she could perform and the contractís "Statement of Work" was written to fit those projects. We concluded that the process OPDAT used to develop Harrisí contract violated the principle that the task to be accomplished should drive the development of a contract rather than the desire to hire a particular consultant.
We disproved an allegation that had appeared in the press that Harris was paid $65,000 for eight days work. She was paid approximately $27,000 for 42 days work on two ILEA conferences. However, we found that she received a higher rate of pay than generally provided to consultants by the Department of State, ICITAP, and OPDAT. We concluded that the lack of a clear record setting forth the basis for the fee raised the appearance that Harris was given preferential treatment by her former subordinates.
VII. Personnel and Financial Management
Federal regulations prohibit contractor personnel from directing federal employees or exercising managerial oversight. Yet, we found that ICITAP and OPDAT managers did not adequately distinguish between government employees and contractor personnel and at times used contractors as managers. In addition, consultants often began work at ICITAP or OPDAT before the Statement of Work was issued to the prime contractor. This practice required the paperwork to be backdated or ratified in order for the consultant to be paid. We also found that consultants who were later hired as federal employees made decisions affecting their former contractor employer.
We found that Bratt violated government regulations requiring open competition for federal positions when he authorized the hiring of a temporary employee for a permanent position at ICITAP before a vacancy had even been announced. We also found that ICITAP Director Janice Stromsem hired as a consultant to ICITAP an individual with whom she had family connections. Stromsem then selected the individual for a term position as a federal employee even though other managers thought the individual was unqualified. Our review also examined allegations that Bratt gave favored treatment to a select group of staff.
With respect to financial management, we found that ICITAP did not pay sufficient attention to the services its contractors provided and left itself vulnerable to overcharges. In one instance, a contractor notified ICITAP that it was unilaterally raising one of its fees, an action not permitted by the contract. Despite this notice, ICITAP did nothing for two years until a JMD contracting officer noticed the overcharge. Subsequent negotiations with the contractor resulted in reimbursement to ICITAP of some of the money.
In 1991, the Criminal Division hired a contractor to provide computer support services and subsequently renewed the contract in 1996. We found that some contractor employees worked in the Criminal Divisionís correspondence unit responding to correspondence. The contractor also provided staff who worked as writers, planned conferences, published reports, and organized parties Ė all activities that were outside the scope of the contracts. 2
We also found that Criminal Division managers failed to adequately supervise these contracts and that the contractor charged the government for the services of personnel who were unqualified under the terms of the contract. The contract set out very specific labor categories, such as Senior Programmer Analyst, and set forth the tasks to be accomplished and the qualifications for each labor category. We found problems with 25 out of 56 of the contractorís personnel under the first contract and 19 of 54 of the contractorís personnel under the second contract. We concluded that at a minimum the contractor overcharged the government in excess of one million dollars.
In another case, ICITAPís lack of planning led the $16,000 translation budget for the first ILEA conference to balloon to more than $120,000. Lake delegated much of the responsibility for coordinating the ILEA conference to his assistant, a contractor, who ordered large amounts of material to be translated on an expedited basis without adequately determining the cost of the translations or the need for the materials. We concluded that Lake delegated responsibility to someone who was not qualified to manage the task and then failed to adequately supervise her.
Finally, in response to allegations of mismanagement in ICITAPís Haiti program, we tracked 131 expensive items to examine whether ICITAP could account for the goods it ordered for use there. Our investigation showed that the contractor responsible for providing goods and services to ICITAP in Haiti had in place an effective inventory control system and that ICITAP could account for all but one of the selected items.
We investigated allegations raised by four employees that ICITAP, OPDAT, or Criminal Division managers had retaliated against them either because they complained about actions taken by managers or because they provided information to the OIG during this investigation. We did not substantiate these claims of retaliation. In addition, we investigated a series of miscellaneous allegations, including that Bratt and another supervisor in the Office of Administration donated excess government computers to schools at which they had personal connections.
Our report offers a series of recommendations to the Department, including that certain employees receive discipline and that the Department seek compensation from employees and former employees who improperly received money or benefits from the Department. We also make a number of recommendations concerning systemic improvements in the areas of travel, ethics, and training.
Bratt retired from the Department effective August 1, 2000, and therefore is not subject to discipline. We recommend that the Department recover the costs of his improper use of business class travel and frequent flyer miles, which we estimate at more than $11,000.
Similarly, Lake is not employed by the Department any longer and is not subject to discipline. We recommend that the Department recover the $25,000 buyout bonus and approximately $3,000 for travel expenses that Lake improperly charged the government. For both Bratt and Lake, we recommend that the Departmentís security office incorporate into their security files the findings of this investigation and provide them to the Defense Investigative Service Clearance Office, the entity that performs background investigations of government contractors.
We recommend discipline ranging from reprimand to suspension for three current Department employees and repayment of money for travel abuses. We also recommend that SEPS and other agencies responsible for issuing security clearances carefully consider the findings and conclusions set forth in this report before issuing a security clearance to the individuals most involved in the security breaches.
With respect to systemic improvements, we make several recommendations relating to oversight of ICITAP and OPDAT, security, investigative follow-up, travel, training, performance evaluations, and early retirement programs. For example, we recommend that the Department:
continue high-level supervisory meetings between Department of Justice and Department of State to coordinate and monitor the work of ICITAP and OPDAT. We believe, however, that this oversight should be in addition to, and not a substitute for, adequate oversight of ICITAP and OPDAT by the Criminal Division;
ensure that the recommendations made in this and previous reviews are implemented or carefully considered;
continue to monitor ICITAPís progress in addressing security issues and provide training to both new and experienced staff who handle classified information;
review the procedures for auditing travel vouchers and provide additional training on travel regulations to employees who travel and to staff who process travel-related paperwork;
revise its ethical training for staff to include issues that raise situations involving the appearance of a conflict of interest;
provide training to administrative officers on any restrictions on employeesí ability to return to government service or work as contractors under various retirement programs.
We found that at various periods between 1995 and 1997 none of the Criminal Divisionís managers with the closest connection to ICITAP believed that they were responsible for supervising ICITAP. In fact, ICITAPís Director at the time told us that she did not understand to whom she was to report. We also found that, to some extent, staff in ICITAP and OPDAT believed that their offices were somehow different and exempt from the rules that applied to employees in the rest of the Department of Justice.
ICITAP and OPDAT have new management now and our sense is that improvements have been made in several areas, including security. However, because our investigation primarily concerns allegations of improprieties and mismanagement that occurred from 1995 through early 1998, we have not reviewed changes made by the current management. Moreover, we believe that it still may be too soon to tell whether ICITAP has moved away from its previous attitude that it was "different" and that the rules applicable to all other Department employees do not apply to it. Attitudes and practices that have been engrained for years are not likely to disappear merely with the introduction of a few new managers. Consequently, we believe that the leadership at ICITAP and OPDAT and their supervisors in the Criminal Division must be vigilant to ensure that staff at ICITAP and OPDAT adhere to Department rules and standards.
A final lesson to be taken from this investigation is the ease with which managers can slip from carelessness to misconduct. In this investigation as in others we have done, we found that some employees rationalized their conduct by noting that they worked hard, they were focusing on other issues, they deserved certain benefits, or that the regulations they operated under were burdensome. We found during this investigation that the occasional "bending of the rules" became a way of doing business by some employees at ICITAP, OPDAT, and the Office of Administration. We believe that Department managers need to be vigilant to avoid the attitudes that can easily lead to the problems we encountered during the course of this investigation.