Behind Closed Doors
The country and world have been enthralled by the Olympic Games in Rio for the past several weeks. The United States sits atop the total medal and gold medal count and countrymen cheer for their favorite athletes like Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky or Keri Walsh Jennings. However, as our gaze is averted for a short time to our neighbors in the south, what has the Pentagon been keeping from us? A new Department of Defense (DoD) report was released last week illustrating just how unaccountable the Pentagon and its affiliates really are. The report showed $6.5 Trillion dollars in Army fund transactions and data are unaccounted for.
The issue, as shown in the release, is mostly due to the infamously dim account practices and evasiveness of, what should be legally binding, financial audits. The 1996 audit code revision forced all federal agencies to conduct regular financial reviews, although the Pentagon has to this date never held one. Spending has been an issue for this agency, blowing trillions in allocated funds from Congress for wars, personnel and housing. In the last 20 years, these taxpayer funds have never been accounted for, being spent recklessly and inefficiently without notice of recourse. This avoidance and misconduct of “cooking the books” has become standard procedure for the Department Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) personnel, with no real threat of reprimands.
It does not necessarily mean the money is stolen, but the problem persists much further than mere theft. Reports specify that the agency has done an awful job by not providing documentation of all transactions, as they should be through “journal vouchers”. These vouchers act as receipts, showing what is purchased and how much congress allocated funding is used from the budget. However, due to such a low accountability rate and the poor system which should be checking these receipts, there is actually no way of knowing how the $6.5 trillion dollars have been spent.
Following such protocol, once a voucher has not been documented it is nearly impossible to retroactively add it to the database. This leads to the next step in a long line of issues leading to the “disappearance” of federal dollars. “Plugging”. Plugs are created to account for missing vouchers, essentially falsifying financial records to create an equality between the U.S. Treasury Department’s records and the military’s financial records. If there is a difference, employees make up a number to smooth over the rough edges.
People like Linda Woodford, a government accountant for the DoD
Yes, these aren’t REAL dollars lost, but only a bookkeeping error. Thousands of documents that should be on file to support the Pentagon’s spending and create a bread crumb trail to the final deficit have been removed with no real explanation as to why.
If this were a local bank, that had hold of personal dollars (essentially what Congress is handing over to the DoD), who loses roughly 30% of someone’s investments through an accounting error, would that person hold the bank accountable? Sadly, this is not an accurate representation of the United States economic policy. People get lost in the bureaucracy of where their tax dollars are spent and how much is spent on what they approve. If you lose cash from your wallet, you notice right away; if you lose it from a federally run agency, you’ll notice when they allow you to notice. This is why accountability is so important from third-party organizations like DFAS. It allows people to understand where, why and how their tax dollars are being spent, rather than just throwing money at a conglomerate that expects you to trust them because they are authoritative. Mistrusts of government and public agencies are personified by people such as previous presidential candidate Bernie Saunders through, claiming Washington was corrupt and people were covering up the ugly side of politics. Well, you weren’t wrong Mr. Sanders, and the list keeps on going.
Be it a third party firm holding the books for government assets or a local bank handling your savings account, those who control other’s possessions, especially when its many others’, must be held accountable for their mistakes. When these mistakes build up, they causing exponential issues both within and outside the agencies. Hopefully, when people look up from the daze of the current Olympic Games or the 2016 election havoc, they will be outraged by this crime and stand up for themselves and countrymen.