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July 8, 2010
Today, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco issued the following statement on the Commerce Department Inspector General’s report on the Asset Forfeiture Fund. A detailed memo concerning her actions can be found here.
I have reviewed the recent Inspector General report. I am deeply troubled by the way the Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF) has been handled in the past. Ensuring we use the monies in the AFF properly is essential to carrying out our duties as responsible managers of federal dollars and as stewards of coastal and marine resources. Our ability to execute these duties depends in large part upon the maintenance of proper internal controls.
Last February, I directed that the management of the AFF be transferred to NOAA’s Comptroller, and required his approval for all expenditures over $1000. These initial steps have already corrected some of the fundamental problems pointed out in the latest report.
However, more actions are needed. In order to ensure that the AFF is managed well from now on, I have directed NOAA General Counsel Lois Schiffer, NOAA’s Fisheries Service Director Eric Schwaab and NOAA Chief Financial Officer Maureen Wylie to develop, by July 30, 2010, a Corrective Action Plan for implementing proper budgeting, expenditure tracking, accounting, legal opinion, expenditure approvals, and external review to ensure NOAA has adhered to all policies and procedures. Once I have approved this plan, it will be implemented immediately. Moving ahead aggressively with all of these corrective efforts should be one of NOAA’s top priorities.
I have also directed them to evaluate whether any personnel actions are appropriate to ensure that those responsible for these problems surrounding the AFF are held accountable. They will report to me on this effort by July 30 as well.
At the core of our enforcement program going forward must be a firm commitment that monies from the AFF will be budgeted, expended, and accounted for with the same level of care as funding appropriated to NOAA. Congress established the AFF and other enforcement related funds for important purposes, and keeping faith with the American people requires that we assure that we are meeting these purposes.
Fair and effective enforcement of our nation’s fisheries laws and regulations protects fish stocks, marine mammals and the marine environment, and is essential to strong coastal communities with sustainable economies. I believe the actions we are now undertaking will greatly help to resolving the issues identified by the IG and KPMG and put us on a path for improving the management oversight of and transparency associated with our use of the AFF.