January 23, 2022

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Federal agent guilty of aiding drug smuggling

18 min read
A Border Patrol (BP) agent has pleaded guilty to attempting to aid and abet smuggling cocaine through a BP checkpoint

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov December 17, 2021
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  • [Request for Reconsideration of Sustained Protest of Labor Contract Award]
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Labor requested reconsideration of a decision which sustained a protest against a contract award for social services. GAO sustained the protest because of: (1) Labor's agreement with one of two offerers within the competitive range following best and final offers concerning government-furnished property; and (2) a resulting cost analysis which possibly prejudiced the protester. GAO recommended the reopening of negotiations with a clear statement of the requirements and termination of the awardee's contract should the protester's proposal prove more advantageous. Labor requested reconsideration on the grounds that the protester was not prejudiced by the negotiations with the awardee and contended that the recommended corrective action was inappropriate. GAO found that it was not clear that the changes effected by the negotiations were not prejudicial to the protester because a reallocation of savings which followed best and final offers allowed the awardee to reduce its bid. Furthermore, GAO found that Labor presented no convincing evidence that GAO erred in concluding that the protester might have successfully competed had it received the same access to government-owned property which had been developed by the awardee. Therefore, GAO held that the negotiations after best and final offers resulted in a substantial change in contract requirements which possibly prejudiced the protester. Accordingly, GAO affirmed its prior decision; however, since less than 3 months' performance remained on the contract, and Labor had decided not to exercise the contract's option but to issue a new solicitation, GAO had no objection to Labor's not reopening negotiations on the original contract.
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  • Department of Energy: Improvements Needed to Strengthen Strategic Planning for the Acquisition Workforce
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Energy (DOE) is one of the largest civilian contracting agencies in the federal government, with about 80 percent of its annual obligations for contracts. Staff in most federal positions in DOE are involved in the acquisition process, according to officials from offices included in GAO's review—the Office of Science, the Office of Environmental Management (EM), and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Some of these staff, such as contracting officers, hold federal or DOE acquisition certifications. DOE generally requires acquisition-related training only for certified staff—which represent about 15 percent of DOE's workforce (see figure)—and maintains training requirements for only these staff through the agency's Acquisition Career Management Program. Numbers of DOE Staff with Acquisition Certifications, as of March 2021 DOE generally does not require acquisition-related training for noncertified staff, many of whom may play a critical role in DOE's acquisition process. Office of Federal Procurement Policy guidance states that agencies should consider the functions performed by staff members, such as requirements development by a technical expert, and include any significant acquisition-related positions in their acquisition training programs. By reviewing the criteria for inclusion in its Acquisition Career Management Program and developing training requirements for noncertified staff that meet these criteria, DOE can better ensure it has the capacity to oversee its contracts. The three DOE offices included in GAO's review have each implemented two of the five leading practices for effective strategic planning for their acquisition workforces, and have partially implemented the remaining three practices. For example, these offices have taken some steps to identify workforce need, but have not fully identified skill and competency gaps—including types and numbers of positions required to close gaps—for their acquisition workforces, as recommended by leading practices. Further, senior DOE and NNSA officials have raised concerns that they do not have enough staff or staff with the right skills in the acquisition workforce to properly oversee contracts. However, NNSA has conducted limited evaluations of gaps in skills and competencies for some positions in its acquisition workforce, and the other offices in GAO's review have not conducted such analyses. With a more complete and thorough understanding of skill and competency gaps for its acquisition workforce, DOE can improve the information it has available to develop its budget and other strategies to build a workforce with the right skills and of the right size to address the agency's long-standing issues with contract management. Why GAO Did This Study DOE's federal acquisition workforce is responsible for managing risks throughout the contracting, or acquisition, process. GAO designated DOE contract and project management as a high-risk area because of DOE's record of inadequate contract management. Senate Report No. 116-48 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review issues affecting DOE's acquisition workforce. This report examines (1) the positions included in DOE's acquisition workforce and the extent to which this workforce receives acquisition-related training and (2) the extent to which DOE has implemented leading practices for effective strategic planning for its acquisition workforce. GAO's review included the Office of Science, EM, and NNSA, which represented over 75 percent of DOE obligations for contracts in fiscal year 2019. GAO reviewed regulations, policies, and workforce planning documents; interviewed officials; and compared information to leading practices on workforce planning.
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    In Crime News
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  • Drug Safety: FDA’s Future Inspection Plans Need to Address Issues Presented by COVID-19 Backlog
    In U.S GAO News
    Fiscal year 2015 was the first time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted more inspections of foreign drug manufacturers than domestic manufacturers, with the majority conducted in China and India. However, in June 2020, GAO reported that from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2018, both foreign and domestic inspections decreased, in part due to staffing vacancies. While foreign inspections increased in 2019, since March 2020, FDA has largely paused foreign and domestic inspections due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, conducting only those deemed mission critical. In January 2021, GAO reported that FDA conducted three foreign inspections in fiscal year 2020 following the pause—significantly less than in recent years. Number of FDA-Conducted Foreign Drug Manufacturing Establishment Inspections, Fiscal Years 2019–2020, by Month FDA has used alternative inspection tools to maintain some oversight of drug manufacturing quality while inspections are paused. These tools include relying on inspections conducted by foreign regulators, requesting and reviewing records and other information, and sampling and testing drugs. FDA has determined that inspections conducted by certain European regulators are equivalent to and can be substituted for an FDA inspection. Other tools provide useful information but are not equivalent. In addition, FDA was unable to complete more than 1,000 of its planned fiscal year 2020 inspections and will likely face a backlog of inspections in future years. In January 2021, GAO recommended that FDA ensure that inspection plans for future fiscal years respond to the issues presented by the backlog and that FDA fully assess the agency's alternative inspection tools. FDA concurred with both recommendations. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, FDA faced persistent challenges conducting foreign inspections. GAO found in December 2019 that there continued to be vacancies among the investigators who conduct foreign inspections. GAO further found that FDA's practice of preannouncing foreign inspections up to 12 weeks in advance could give manufacturers the opportunity to fix problems ahead of the inspection and raised questions about their equivalence to domestic inspections. In light of COVID-19, FDA is now preannouncing both foreign and domestic inspections for the safety of its staff and manufacturers. GAO also found that language barriers can create challenges during foreign inspections as FDA generally relies on the establishment for translation services. The outbreak of COVID-19 has called greater attention to the United States' reliance on foreign drug manufacturers. FDA reports that 74 percent of establishments manufacturing active ingredients and 54 percent of establishments manufacturing finished drugs for the U.S. market were located overseas, as of May 2020. FDA is responsible for overseeing the safety and effectiveness of all drugs marketed in the United States, regardless of where they are produced, and it conducts inspections of both foreign and domestic manufacturing establishments. GAO has had long-standing concerns about FDA's ability to oversee the increasingly global pharmaceutical supply chain, an issue highlighted in GAO's High Risk Series since 2009. This statement is largely based on GAO's Drug Manufacturing Inspections enclosure in its January 2021 CARES Act report, as well as GAO's December 2019 and June 2020 testimonies. Specifically, it discusses (1) the number of FDA's foreign inspections, (2) FDA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic pause in inspections, and (3) persistent foreign inspection challenges. For that work, GAO examined FDA data from fiscal years 2012 through 2020, interviewed FDA investigators, and reviewed documents related to drug oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or deniganmacauleym@gao.gov.
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  • Disaster Block Grants: Factors to Consider in Authorizing a Permanent Program
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In March 2019, GAO reported that because the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program lacks permanent authority and regulations—unlike other disaster assistance programs—appropriations require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to customize grant requirements for each disaster in Federal Register notices—a time-consuming process. GAO identified challenges associated with the lack of permanent statutory authority, including delays in disbursal of funds and the need for grantees to manage multiple grants with different rules. For example, GAO found it took HUD 5 months after the first appropriation for the 2017 hurricanes (Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria) for HUD to issue the first Federal Register notice establishing the grant requirements. Officials from one of the 2017 CDBG-DR grantees told GAO of challenges managing multiple CDBG-DR grants it received over the years because each grant had different rules. HUD officials noted then that permanently authorizing CDBG-DR would allow HUD to issue permanent regulations for disaster recovery. GAO identified factors to consider when weighing whether and how to permanently authorize a program for unmet disaster assistance needs. These factors, which are based on GAO's body of work on emergency management and past observations of broader government initiatives, include the following: Clarify how the program would fit into the broader federal disaster framework. GAO has emphasized the importance of articulating a program's relationship to other programs and of aligning the program within organizations with compatible missions and goals. This is particularly important with disaster programs, given the approximately 30 agencies involved in disaster recovery. Clarify the purpose and design the program to address it. Greater clarity about the purpose of CDBG-DR could help resolve implementation issues GAO has previously identified, such as how much time grantees should have to spend funds and the proportion of funds that should be distributed to renters. Consider the necessary capacity and support infrastructure to implement the program. GAO's prior work found that state, local, territorial, and tribal grantees and federal agencies faced capacity challenges in administering and overseeing federal grant funds, including CDBG-DR. Capacity challenges for grantees may contribute to fraud risks and slow expenditure of funds. Why GAO Did This Study Legislation proposed over the years would permanently authorize CDBG-DR or a similar program, but no proposal has been enacted. Since 1993, Congress has provided over $90 billion in supplemental appropriations through HUD's CDBG program to help communities recover from disasters. Just since 2001, HUD has issued over 100 Federal Register notices linked to these funds. Communities use these funds to address unmet needs for housing, infrastructure, and economic revitalization. HUD is one of approximately 30 federal agencies tasked with disaster recovery. This testimony discusses (1) challenges associated with the lack of permanent statutory authority for CDBG-DR and (2) factors to consider when weighing whether and how to permanently authorize CDBG-DR or a similar program. It is based primarily on GAO's March 2019 and May 2021 reports on CDBG-DR (GAO-19-232 and GAO-21-177) and GAO reports issued between February 2004 and June 2019 that identified factors to consider in making critical federal policy decisions. For those reports, GAO reviewed documentation on CDBG-DR and its observations of efforts to reorganize or streamline government, among other things.
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    In Crime News
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