Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund: Transparency of Balances and Controls over Equitable Sharing Should Be Improved

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Annual revenues into the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF) from forfeited assets increased from $500 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2011, in part due to an increase in prosecutions of fraud and financial crimes cases. Expenditures in support of forfeiture activities such as equitable sharing payments to state and local law enforcement agencies and payments to victims also increased over the same 9-year period, growing from $458 million in 2003 to $1.3 billion in 2011. The Department of Justice (DOJ) uses the difference between revenues ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. July 12, 2012.

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Description

A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Annual revenues into the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF) from forfeited assets increased from $500 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2011, in part due to an increase in prosecutions of fraud and financial crimes cases. Expenditures in support of forfeiture activities such as equitable sharing payments to state and local law enforcement agencies and payments to victims also increased over the same 9-year period, growing from $458 million in 2003 to $1.3 billion in 2011. The Department of Justice (DOJ) uses the difference between revenues and expenditures in any year to help cover anticipated expenses in the next fiscal year. Because the AFF uses fund revenues to pay for the expenses associated with forfeiture activities, DOJ carries over funds at the end of each fiscal year to ensure it has sufficient resources to cover expenses that may not be covered by the next year’s revenues. When determining the amounts to carry over, DOJ reviews historical data on past program expenditures, analyzes known future expenses such as salaries and contracts, and estimates the costs of any potential new expenditures. However, DOJ has not documented the process for determining the amount of funds needed to cover anticipated expenditures in the next fiscal year in its annual budget justifications. Providing more transparent information as part of the AFF’s annual budget process would better inform Congress’ oversight of the AFF. Further, after DOJ obligates funds needed to cover program expenses, any remaining AFF funds identified at the end of a fiscal year may be declared an excess unobligated balance. DOJ has the authority to use these balances for any of the department’s authorized purposes. Per Office of Management and Budget guidance, in recent years, DOJ used these excess unobligated balances to help cover rescissions. Rescissions cancel the availability of DOJ’s previously enacted budget authority, making the funds involved no longer available for obligation. For example, in fiscal year 2011, DOJ used excess unobligated balances to help cover a $495 million AFF program rescission."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • July 12, 2012

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund: Transparency of Balances and Controls over Equitable Sharing Should Be Improved, report, July 12, 2012; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296084/: accessed December 10, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.