Nation Digest: Pentagon reassigns chief auditor

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Chief auditor is reassigned

The Pentagon's chief auditor was forced from her post Monday following sharp criticism from lawmakers over failures to hold defense contractors accountable for overcharges and poor performance.

April Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency since February 2008, has been reassigned to a new position inside the Pentagon and was replaced by a senior civilian Army official, according to internal e-mail messages.

Although the Defense Department cast the shift as a desire to bring a fresh perspective to an organization critical to stemming waste and fraud in military spending, a major factor in the decision was mounting concern on Capitol Hill with the agency's management practices and independence.

Among the problems were repeated failures to meet government auditing standards, a lack of planning and supervision, auditors being pressured to rush their work to meet productivity goals, and audit findings being changed to favor contractors without evidence to support the switch.

Many of the problems existed before Stephenson took over as director.

In an e-mail sent Monday to agency employees, Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale said the director of the Army Audit Agency, Patrick Fitzgerald, will replace Stephenson effective Nov. 9.

-- Associated Press

Madoff associate drowned after heart attack: A man accused of making more than $7 billion from the investment schemes of jailed financial manager Bernard Madoff drowned in his Florida pool after having a heart attack, authorities said Monday. An autopsy was conducted Monday on Jeffry Picower, 67, said Michael Bell, chief medical examiner for Palm Beach County. The death has been ruled accidental, and the heart attack was brought on by heart disease. Toxicology tests are pending. Picower had been accused by Madoff investors of being the biggest beneficiary of Madoff's schemes. In a lawsuit to recover Madoff's assets, trustee Irving Picard demanded Picower return more than $7 billion in bogus profits. Picard has said the litigation will continue.

Chamber files suit over Press Club hoax: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a civil complaint Monday against members of the Yes Men, a liberal activist group that staged a news conference Oct. 19 at the National Press Club. The chamber said it filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington to protect its trademark and other intellectual property from unlawful use. The activists misappropriated the chamber's logo, created a fraudulent Web site and falsely claimed to be speaking as the chamber under the group's copyright, the chamber said in a statement, when they announced that the business federation had reversed its stance on climate-change legislation.

Ohio seeks doctors for execution help: Ohio's death penalty is temporarily on hold while the state hunts for medical professionals willing to advise it on the best way to put condemned inmates to death. Ethical and professional rules generally prohibit doctors, nurses and others from involvement in capital punishment, and they are deterring those professionals from speaking about alternatives to the state's lethal injection process, Attorney General Richard Cordray said in a court filing. Missouri encountered a similar problem in 2006 when revamping its execution procedures.

-- From news services

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