April 12, 2023
Requested by the Federal Aviation Administrator
FAA’s Office of Investigations and Professional Responsibility Needs To Enhance Internal Controls for Conducting Administrative Investigations
What We Looked At
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Investigations and Professional Responsibility (AXI) conducts administrative investigations and special inquiries on FAA employees and contractors suspected of violating Agency orders, regulations, and policy. The Federal Aviation Administrator asked our office to conduct a review of AXI following a December 2020 Senate Committee report that detailed significant lapses in aviation safety oversight and leadership at FAA. Our audit objective was to assess AXI’s policies, procedures, and practices for conducting administrative investigations and evaluate its compliance with applicable standards or best practices.
What We Found
AXI’s guidance overlaps with and contradicts FAA’s guidance, potentially leaving investigators unclear about their responsibilities. An FAA directive also currently prohibits investigators from concluding whether employees actually engaged in misconduct, which senior AXI officials believe would make their reports more effective. Per the request of the Administrator, we obtained training records to determine if investigators received the necessary indoctrination training. However, AXI’s electronic training system records are not current, making it difficult to track whether agents are fully trained on proper investigative techniques and protocols. In addition, the office lacks internal controls to ensure the appropriate official always reviews and signs investigation reports. As a result, sensitive investigation reports could be issued without management’s awareness. Field investigators also lack clear guidance on referring criminal cases to OIG, and AXI does not have internal controls to ensure that it accounts for investigative requests that it rejects or that do not fall under its authority. Without an accurate record, some cases may get overlooked. Finally, AXI’s policies, procedures, and practices do not comply with Federal or AXI standards for program reviews, which hinders its ability to ensure investigators meet program requirements, help FAA take effective corrective action against employees who engage in misconduct, and prevent errors from reoccurring.
FAA concurred with all 11 of our recommendations to strengthen AXI’s policies, procedures, and practices for conducting administrative investigations.