OIG Investigative and Law Enforcement Authority
The Office of Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was administratively established by the Secretary of Agriculture in 1962 following a major criminal fraud scandal affecting several agencies within USDA. OIG was later legislatively established by Congress under the Inspector General Act of 1978 (Public Law [P.L.] 95-452), as amended.
Pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978 and Section 1337 of the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981 (P.L. 97-98), OIG Investigations is the law enforcement arm of the Department, with Department-wide investigative jurisdiction. OIG Special Agents conduct investigations of significant criminal activities involving USDA programs, operations, and personnel, and are authorized to make arrests, execute warrants, and carry firearms. The types of investigations conducted by OIG Special Agents involve criminal activities such as frauds in subsidy, price support, benefits, and insurance programs; significant thefts of Government property or funds; bribery; extortion; smuggling; and assaults on employees. Investigations involving criminal activity that affects the health and safety of the public, such as meat packers who knowingly sell hazardous food products and individuals who tamper with food regulated by USDA, are also high-profile investigative priorities. In addition, OIG Special Agents are poised to provide emergency law enforcement response to USDA declared emergencies and suspected incidents of terrorism affecting USDA regulated industries, as well as USDA programs, operations, personnel, and installations, in coordination with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, as appropriate.
The enactment of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-37) authorized OIG to receive funds and property through criminal and civil Federal forfeiture proceedings, and through equitable sharing of forfeited funds and property controlled by the U.S. Department of Justice. Forfeiture proceeds have severe restrictions mandated by statutes and U.S. Department of Justice policy as to how they are used. Forfeiture funds cannot be used in lieu of the OIG's regular appropriations.