IG says Customs needs more help

The Customs Service lacks the managers it needs to oversee its $1.3 billion modernization program, the Treasury Department's inspector general recently reported.

'Customs does not yet have the people and systems in place to adequately manage the development' of its Automated Commercial Environment, according to the IG report, Interim Report on Customs ACE Program Management: Customs Needs to Adequately Staff the Modernization Office.

The agency awarded a 15-year contract last April to IBM Corp. for the modernization. Customs wants to replace its 17-year-old Automated Commercial System with ACE.

The audit said a communications position in the Customs Modernization Office is vacant. Also, there is only one employee each in the business management and program control offices responsible for contracts and project information.

Find some leaders

The deputy director's job and another top position became vacant earlier this year.

'If U.S. Customs does not clearly identify both the strategic decision-makers and the operational lead for communications and organizational change management, then the modernization is at significant risk,' the report said.

A Customs spokeswoman said the business management and deputy director positions are being filled on an acting basis, and the service will fill positions called for in a new plan the Customs Modernization Office will implement. The communications manager has been selected, she said.

The IG audit also said the service needs to re-evaluate the ACE schedule to ensure that Customs and its contractors have sufficient time and resources to produce quality results.
Customs disagreed with the IG's finding that it did not have staff or systems in place to adequately manage ACE.

In a written response, William F. Riley, director of the Customs Office of Planning, said the service has 'mechanisms in place to oversee and more than adequately manage the development of ACE, and will continue to strengthen these mechanisms.'

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