Lawmaker finds Defense IG is doing less with more

The Pentagon's chief watchdog has strayed from its core mission of detecting waste, fraud and abuse and is slipping in productivity, according to a new Senate report.

In fiscal 2009, the Defense Department Inspector General's Audit Office did not investigate any "major or nonmajor weapons contract or contractor," the report released on Thursday by the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said. The IG left that mission to the Defense Contract Audit Agency, Senate staffers said, adding DCAA is not independent from Pentagon management and has its own potential competency issues.

"As the [Office of Inspector General] has drifted away from its core mission of conducting contract audits, it chose to move in an ill-advised direction," the 73-page report said. "Today, the majority of audits appear to be nothing more than quasi-academic reviews of DoD policies and procedures. The DoD OIG has become the department's 'policy police.' "

Potential criminal activity also has become less of a focus, Grassley's office found. The DoD IG Audit Office made nine referrals to the Defense Criminal Investigative Service in fiscal 2009. None resulted in criminal prosecution, the report said.

Overall, the 765-person audit office issued just 113 reports in fiscal 2009, its lowest total in two decades. In 1995, when the office had 717 auditors, the IG published 264 reports, the Senate staffers said. The productivity level at Defense also pales in comparison to auditors at the Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security departments, investigators found.

And despite conducting less labor-intensive contract audits, the office is averaging 18 months to issue reports, Grassley's staff found. Some audits have dragged on longer than three years, and others have taken so long the IG eventually scrapped them.

Investigators also found audit teams were no longer able to conduct full-scope, end-to-end contract audits. Supervisors told Grassley's staff auditors no longer verify payments at the primary source -- the Defense Finance and Accounting Service -- because of the difficulty of the effort. If auditors do not check payments and match them with contracts and deliveries, then it is unlikely they will discover fraud and waste, the report noted.

"If audit capabilities are seriously degraded or crippled, as suggested in this report, then OIG oversight is gravely impaired, leaving huge sums of the taxpayers' money vulnerable to fraud and outright theft," the report said. "The OIG Audit junkyard dog has been defanged and rendered harmless."

Grassley sent the findings to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday. In the letter, the senator called for a major retooling of the inspector general's office, noting that without significant audit reforms, the Pentagon would not be able to meet its goal of rooting out $100 billion in wasteful spending during the next five years.

"You need a better mix of weapons in your arsenal to get the job done," Grassley wrote. "You need independent backup and audit support from the Office of the Inspector General."

Investigators recommended the office create significantly larger audit teams of up to 100 staffers to tackle the department's most egregious contract problems.

If the office's slide continues, Grassley suggested Congress might not provide the Defense IG with requested funds to hire 235 additional auditors during the next five years.

Defense IG Gordon S. Heddell acknowledged the Senate findings and said he was addressing audit timeliness and relevance.

"The observations and recommendations made by Sen. Grassley are relevant -- and important -- but they are only one piece of a much bigger transformation that I embarked upon well over a year ago when I was confirmed by the Senate as IG," Heddell said in a statement.

IG officials said some audit successes are being overlooked. Documents the office provided highlighted recent staff awards and critical reports that have resulted in funds being returned to taxpayers.

"This year alone, our auditors have saved the department $4.1 billion," said Mary L. Ugone, deputy inspector general for auditing. "We have placed significant emphasis on life and safety issues affecting our men and women in uniform, such as testing body armor and acquiring counter [improvised explosive] devices. The work of audit is not just about dollars; it's about protecting the warfighter."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.