3 Challenges for Today’s Investigators in the Age of Increased Transparency in Government – Insights from Steve Familo, SAIC

June 4, 2024 / #Audit & Investigations

Over the past decade, advancements in investigation software technology, the rise in complex, multijurisdictional investigations, and pressures to reform investigative tools, techniques and standards have fundamentally transformed the government investigative process.  

Everyone from the public and Congress to agency leadership and the Department of Justice are heavily scrutinizing, not just whether the investigative report meets basic requirements, but also the investigative process itself. And this scrutiny, while welcomed as investigators want to provide airtight and timely results, has resulted in exponential growth in demands for reporting, evidence tracking, and coordination.  

At a recent OPEXUS virtual event, we were joined by Steve Familo, SAIC / Director of Investigations of a large federal agency, as he spoke about the challenges he faces as a supervisor of a government investigative team.  

Challenges of Coordination

Multijurisdictional investigations pose a significant challenge for government agencies due to varying legal frameworks and procedural complexities. Multiple agents, from the same or different jurisdictions, working on an investigation may have conflicting or competing interests and requirements.  

“A decade ago, I was frequently the only case agent on several investigations. That’s almost never the case anymore,” said Familo. “If you’re working healthcare fraud, if you’re working anything that involves protection of technology, any counterintelligence issues, et cetera. almost everything is multi-jurisdictional now.” 

The use of multiple investigations software tools further complicates matters, as different jurisdictions adopt diverse approaches to achieve a common goal. 

Increased Reporting Requirements

With the spotlight on government actions intensifying, agencies face mounting pressure to enhance transparency and accountability in their investigative processes. Stakeholders, ranging from the public to oversight bodies, closely scrutinize investigative techniques and outcomes, demanding a higher level of accountability.  

The requirements for regular briefings on investigative portfolios add to the administrative burden, diverting focus from core investigative activities. Moreover, the evolving landscape, as exemplified by Executive Order 14074, necessitates changes in how investigations are conducted, documented, and reported. 

“Today, the final report itself is just as important as how the investigation and evidence is managed throughout the process in a thorough and transparent way,” said Familo. Familo’s team follows the CIGIE standards for investigations, which is a set of best practices, including case activity being required every 14 days.  

Reporting involves more than just summarizing findings; it also requires careful consideration of how to disseminate the information to relevant stakeholders. This could involve security clearance component reviews, disciplinary advisory panels, or collaboration with other mission partners, like the FBI or DOJ. Each of these stakeholders may have different requirements and expectations, necessitating the production of tailored reports to meet their needs. 

Not meeting reporting deadlines or missing a case activity deadline can have negative impacts on the integrity of the investigative team’s efforts and ability to secure resources to continue their important work. 

Increased Supervisory Burdens

With more reporting, more accountability, and more complicated investigations involving multiple agents, agencies, and jurisdiction, those managing the investigative process are increasingly overwhelmed with navigating competing deadlines and priorities to help keep their agents on track. The lack of supervisor visibility into caseloads and case statuses hampers efficiency, necessitating increased rigor in tracking and recording requirements. 

“If you’re managing three agents, [tracking deadlines] is fairly simple to do,” said Familo. “But when you have 47 active cases and 15 people working on them and you’ve blown a case review or someone hasn’t made an entry into the case activity report in 14 days, well, now you’re deficient. It may not necessarily affect the ability to get a judicial or a civil action in your case. But those of us in the IG community, when it’s peer review time, if you have a standard and you don’t follow it, it’s absolutely a point that can be brought to light.” 

Supervisory agents need the ability to see a high-level view of the case activities, caseloads of each agent, and the impending deadlines so they can better support the agents in the field.  

“The goal of technology is to put more time back into the investigators day to be an investigator,” said Familo.  

Empowering Investigators with Effective Tools

Streamlining investigative workflows and reducing administrative overhead can free up valuable time for investigators to focus on core tasks and provide high-level views for supervisors to ensure the team is following best practice. 

With advancements in technology, case management software, such as eCASE Investigations, investigators can now overcome many of their challenges by streamlining workflows, tracking evidence chains of custody, creating defensible logs, and more – all while ensuring they never miss a deadline. Tools like eCASE empower investigators to stay on track and meet the rigorous standards set forth by regulatory bodies. 

Moreover, the role-based access controls offered by eCASE ensure that sensitive information is protected while still allowing for efficient collaboration and reporting. This not only enhances the integrity of the investigative process but also fosters trust and confidence in the outcomes. 

As we embrace the opportunities afforded by technology, it’s essential to remain vigilant in upholding the principles of accountability, transparency, and thoroughness in our investigative work. By leveraging tools like eCASE Investigations, we can not only meet the demands of our ever-evolving landscape but also continue to build public trust and confidence in the integrity of our investigative processes. 

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