Obama Treasury Department May Have Skirted Anti-Deficiency Act, Watchdog Finds

The Treasury Department in fiscal 2015 “potentially violated” the Anti-Deficiency Act and other statutes with reimbursements for shared services, prematurely moving monies before interagency agreements were in place, the department’s inspector general found.

The watchdog’s audit of the Obama-era Treasury Office of Budget and Travel focused on Treasury’s interoffice transactions as well as its shared services arrangements with 34 internal and external agencies. Auditors found that the travel office incurred obligations and expenditures for goods and services “prior to the respective reimbursable agreements being signed” as required under the 1933 Economy Act. Accountants also used fiscal 2016 funds for fiscal 2015 costs related to reimbursable services for agency customers, the report found.

Auditors identified “internal control weaknesses” in the budget and travel office, among them “untimely processing of reimbursable agreements,” “untimely collections of revenue” from customers of departmental offices, and “premature loading” of departmental offices’ reimbursable budget authority. Other issues raised involve “failure to follow closeout policies, procedures, and guidance;” lack of adequate training; and absent or obsolete written guidance.

The budget and travel office paid several thousand dollars in unnecessary interest costs, in violation of the Prompt Payment Act, the report said. And it failed to obligate in a timely manner its annual rent operating agreements with the General Services Administration.

“It is imperative that the internal control weaknesses are addressed timely because several of them contributed to the other internal control weaknesses, potential [Anti-Deficiency Act] violations, and instances of non-compliance with other laws and regulations,” the IG concluded.

The report recommended that the assistant Treasury secretary for management finalize the travel office’s 2015 records and request a Government Accountability Office verdict on whether the Anti-Deficiency Act was violated. It also suggested similar treatment of records for fiscal 2016 and 2017. And the IG recommended improved training.

Treasury officials agreed with the recommendations, saying the budget and travel office has already taken steps to redesign and implement new controls.

In a letter to the IG, Kody Kinsley, assistant Treasury secretary for management, and Beverly Ortega Babers, deputy assistant secretary for management and budget, cited a heightened workload as a contributor to the problems. In fiscal 2015, Congress passed a late funding bill that split Treasury’s appropriation, costing departmental operations $112 million in budget authority, they wrote. Staff had to redesign the accounting structure and recode thousands of lines of funding.

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