GAO report: Customs and Border Protection misspent funds on boats, ATVs, other expenses

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June 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection spent some emergency funds earmarked for humanitarian aid along the U.S.-Mexico border on things like transportation and computer upgrades, according to congressional auditors.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report Thursday the money was intended for medical supplies and migrant facilities but was used by CBP for unrelated expenses including upgrades to its computer network, transportation involving boats, all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes and vaccines for staffers.

The GAO review said the misspent funds came a line item of $112 million meant for "medical consumables" as part of a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill last year to address a surge of Central American families and children arriving at the U.S. border.

"For the transportation-related items CBP uses to perform its border enforcement duties and to transport individuals as part of CBP's operations, we find no nexus to consumables or medical care. Further, CBP did not provide any explanation as to how these items relate to the consumables and medical care line item appropriation," the 11-page report states.

"Therefore, we conclude that CBP violated the purpose statute ... and should adjust its accounts."

The GAO is a nonpartisan watchdog of the legislative branch that performs investigation, audit and evaluation services for Congress and is the supreme audit institution of the federal government.

GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong said the agency "plans to adjust its accounts for several of these obligations and should do so for any additional purpose violations by obligating the account available for the appropriate purpose."

The review was requested by Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee.

CBP responded that the GAO report is a "legal opinion" rather than a formal audit and that the inconsistencies it found were "technical in nature."

"As the opinion notes, CBP charged a small subset of expenses in fiscal year 2019 to the incorrect account," the agency said. "We are working to itemize all such expenses, and correct our accounts as recommend by the GAO."

Migrants in Mexico: Journey to the U.S. border

Migrants ride an inflatable raft on the Suchiate River from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, while a smuggler waits for their arrival in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico on Thursday. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

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