Getting audited is something most taxpayers admit they dread. But those same citizens might be heartened to know that government agencies that receive their tax dollars are audited just the same, to ensure that money is properly spent.
The Army and the rest of the Defense Department are on notice from Congress that they will be audited soon.
Robert M. Speer, acting assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, said the impending review is something the services should be looking forward to.
Speer spoke at the Association of the U.S. Army’s “Sustaining Force 2025” seminar here, May 20.
“We’ve got to be able to be audited on the appropriations we receive and where we’re obligating those funds by 2015,” he said, during one of the panel discussions. And, “we’ll have to do a full-financial statement audit, much like private industry does, by 2018.”
The deadlines for meeting those reporting requirements are “closing on us fast,” Speer said.
The primary reason for having an audit, he said, is “not just because it’s the law, but because we owe it to our stakeholders,” the American people.
And, he added, there are a lot of benefits for the Army as well. As the overall funding has dwindled at a rapid pace over the last few years, the Army needs to be able to see where its resources are going “at a moment’s notice, across the enterprise.”
Also, the legwork involved in preparing for an audit will reveal whether or not resources are being procured and used in a mission-essential, cost-effective manner, he added.
By resources, Speer said that means everything the Army has, from beans, bullets and bandages to personnel systems and logistics programs.
Speer said that on a recent trip to Capitol Hill, he spoke with someone who said he was “dumbfounded” that DOD was the only federal agency that has never been audited, although audits in government have been around since Congress passed the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950.
Although the entire Army hasn’t ever been audited at once, Speer did say that portions of the Army have been audited at various times. Once such example of that is Arlington National Cemetery.
Speer said an internal audit fixed problems that had been developing for a number of years at the cemetery, namely, troubled management procedures.
After putting new controls and procedures into place, along with being audited, ANC is now a more efficient, effective and transparent organization that the Army can be proud of, he said. “Imagine that across the entire Army.”
Speer said he suspects there could be similar problems elsewhere in the Army that could be addressed through preparing for an audit.
PREPPING FOR AUDIT
The Government Accountability Office, known as the GAO, “will tell you that to get to a successful audit, you need to have committed leadership, great governance and accountability over resources and systems, and well-defined business architecture,” Speer said. “It’s not just about the auditor and the accountants.”
The GAO is the congressional agency that oversees an audit.
Business and systems architecture have to integrate together, he said, and one has to see how and where the funding flow travels.
Top Army leaders are now discussing the coming audit with commanders worldwide, he said. They’re looking at things like internal controls, accountability, where resources and documentation supports the funding and how well training is going.
Better training includes understanding and properly using the General Fund Enterprise Business System, or GFEBS, he said.
GFEBS is a web-enabled financial, asset and accounting management system that standardizes, streamlines and shares critical data across all of the Army components.
GFEBS efforts are now directed at analyzing business processes, systems and training, reviewing cost estimates to right-size sustainment, he added.
Besides GFEBS, another enterprise resource planning tool being fielded across the Army and the other services to monitor finance, accounting, manufacturing, sales, service and customer relationships is the Global Combat Support System.
The tools are in place to prepare for a successful audit and leadership is directing commanders to implement procedures. Speer said he’s confident the Army will see the audit’s benefits in the years ahead.