The Internal Revenue Service needs to strengthen its controls over its investigative equipment to prevent waste and loss, according to a new government report.

The IRS’s Criminal Investigation division has nearly 44,000 pieces of investigative equipment, ranging from cars and badges to firearms and radios with a total value of nearly $126 million. The equipment is essential to accomplish the IRS’s investigative and enforcement functions.

In a new report, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration evaluated the progress made by the CI division in improving its property management since a September 2005 audit in which TIGTA determined that internal control weaknesses created an environment susceptible to the loss of investigative equipment.

Although the CI division took steps to strengthen controls over its equipment inventory, TIGTA’s new audit identified continued weaknesses. CI management did not properly conduct annual inventory reviews, update its inventory database to include all purchases of investigative equipment, conduct required security reviews, or restrict access to investigative equipment to authorized personnel.

“It is critical that the IRS establish effective protocols to ensure that its assets are adequately safeguarded against theft and loss,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.

TIGTA visited CI headquarters and three field offices and physically verified a sample of investigative equipment items against the equipment database. TIGTA could not locate or find proper support for 23, or approximately 9 percent, of the items valued at $82,326. Further analysis showed that 11 of those 23 items could not be located because they had been disposed of without adequate documentation.

TIGTA made eight recommendations to improve CI’s inventory management and controls. The IRS agreed with five recommendations, partially agreed with two recommendations, and disagreed with TIGTA’s recommendation for additional restriction of access to investigative equipment and weapons storage areas. The IRS said that access to CI offices is already limited to CI personnel.

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