Report criticizes defense agency's auditing

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Monday, March 21, 2011; 10:18 AM

It is supposed to be an A Team that keeps a close eye on the Defense Logistics Agency, the $41 billion-a-year operation that supplies Meals Ready-to-Eat, uniforms, spare parts and just about everything else to troops around the world.

But the agency's accountability office does F-grade work when it comes to conducting audits, according to a recent report by the Pentagon's Inspector General.

Many of the audits are improperly performed. Investigators often do not have enough auditing experience and don't follow generally accepted government auditing standards. In six of eight offices reviewed, planning was found to be deficient, according to the report.

"As a result of the significant deficiencies described . . . we are issuing a fail opinion on the DLA audit organization's system of quality control," said Randolph R. Stone, deputy inspector general for policy and oversight.

The DLA did not respond to requests for comment.

The IG report raises questions about the Pentagon's ability to properly oversee contractors vital to its far-flung operations.

For years, Congress has heard testimony that the Pentagon's logistics operations are hampered by questionable practices, poor planning and overpriced goods and services. The DLA's accountability office contributes to the problem by failing in its oversight role, the findings conclude.

"The report confirms the alarming trend we are seeing where Pentagon management has relegated audits of contracts and internal controls to a back seat," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a private nonpartisan oversight organization that tracks Pentagon spending. "Despite rhetoric to the contrary, senior DOD leadership has been on a tear to reduce or even eliminate any type of audit oversight, whether related to contractors or DOD's own internal controls."

The DLA faces a mammoth task. Its 27,000 employees provide support to nearly 1,900 weapons systems and eight supply chains moving 5 million items. The wars in the Middle East have added to the strain.

The accountability office was formed in early 2008 to focus investigators and auditors on improving "efficiency, accountability and warfighter support."

The IG criticism deals with the quality control of audits, which are crucial to identifying theft, fraud and other abuses. The IG report found an "absence of official quality control policies and procedures" and a lack of independence among auditors.

The report notes that only "one quality assurance auditor position" was established, in late 2009, but that person has not conducted "any reviews of DLA audit work and therefore could not provide any evidence of quality assurance monitoring."

The IG made nine recommendations, including calling for revisions of the audit policies. The DLA agreed with all nine, the report said.

"We determined that the DLA audit organization did not exercise professional judgment due to the vast array of noncompliances," the report said. "The DLA Accountability Office, Audit Division, and the DLA Disposition Services audit offices did not have a clear understanding of what constituted an audit."

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