Confidential informant finance

Auditing undercover operations - the benefits of getting it right

Auditing confidential informant funds. Article and commentary on an audit of undercover and informant funds

Confidential Informant Management - things that go wrong

Things that go wrong with confidential informant management. Educating police chiefs and others involved in informant management.

Confidential Informant Audit Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

As some one who is always on the look out for material on how to better manage human sources (confidential informants) I came across this audit of some of the issues The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have had in managing confidential informants. 


For anyone involved in this business it is always good to read about what is and is not being done properly in other agencies. We should not be continuing to make the same mistakes. Take the time to read the full report and then check your own systems to ensure that you are not making the same mistakes.  Better do it now before you are audited or something else goes wrong and the lawyers come knocking at your door. 

Lets take a look at some of the recommendations here which I have paraphrased in more general terms. (My comments in italics)

  • Develop and implement a record-keeping system sufficient to maintain, in a single location, complete and reliable CI information.  - This is essential for every agency. All confidential informant records should be held in a central location.
  • Establish adequate procedures and controls within the system to ensure that all data is entered in a complete, consistent, and accurate manner, and that historical data is appropriately maintained.  Good training to manage informants and good supervision ensure good data entry.
  • Ensure that the system requires the capture and validation of additional confidential informant related information to assist in managing the confidential informant program. There has been be a way to capture any information to help the agency improve its capacity when it comes to managing informants
  • Implement a method to accurately and completely track all payment information for individual confidential informants. Money management is a serious concern in all CI programs. Good systems significantly reduce the risks to the officers and to the agency.

Managing confidential informants ( human sources ) is fraught with risk. Good systems reduce those risks. 

Managing confidential informant funds

It is 2016 and the days of paying confidential informants without having a system which can be audited should be long gone.  Floyd County Sheriff's Department in New Albany, Indiana were audited recently in relation to managing funds relating to confidential informants. The audit should raise concerns with any one reading it given the substantial sums of money involved.

There are many reasons why money used to pay confidential informants needs to be highly regulated. Here are a few.

  1. There is a very high risk of officers becoming corrupted when dealing with confidential informants. Allowing them access to money without there being in place a strict regime just creates an environment, where it is much more likely to happen. The temptation and opportunity are a recipe for disaster. 
  2. If there is not a strict policy on managing informant money it is very tempting for senior officers to "divert" that money to other projects and not what it was allocated for.
  3. If there is not a rigorous regime it is far to easy for someone to make false allegations about the officers that are using the money.
  4. The Sheriff or Chief needs to be able to see  exactly how much was paid,  who was paid and what the agency got for that money. This requires comprehensive records of every payment the dates the times and who paid it, who authorised the payment and why.  This goes a long way to ensuring objectivity when deciding how much to pay a confidential informant.
  5. If there is not a clear audit of payments it can raise serious doubt about the veracity of any information obtained by the confidential informant. This can more problems down the line when it comes to disclosure, particularly if the informant is for some reason going to be used as a witness. 
  6. These funds come from taxpayers. Taxpayers are entitled to have a proper accounting of how their taxes are spent. This does not mean that these records should be made public. On the contrary to do so would jeopardise the life of informants. What is required is that all the records are kept in one place where a suitably qualified person can audit them and provide reassurance to the public. 

If procedures are not in place for the strict control of confidential informant finance it is a clear indication to any professional involved in this type of work that the agency has failed to manage the risks associate with managing confidential informants and as such they are negligent. In short the agency should not be managing informants. The risks are too great. The idea that an officer can access money in this way is reminiscent  of the times when a drugs detective got a handful of cash for  "walking around money". Those times should be history. 

There is software to manage confidential informants and if any agency wants advice and guidance on how to put adequate systems in place please feel free to contact us. We will help where we can.