Defense Department can’t account for $15 billion in tax payer money.

We’re spending trillions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so you’d think the least the government could do is tell us how that many is being spent. Alas it appears they largely haven’t a clue:

The lack of accountability of the funds, intended for purchases of weapons, vehicles, construction equipment and security services, amounted to a 95 percent failure rate in basic accounting standards, according to the report.

“We estimated that the army made 1.4 billion dollars in commercial payments that lacked the minimum documentation for a valid payment, such as properly prepared receiving reports, invoices, and certified vouchers,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Ugone told a Congressional committee Thursday.

“We also estimated that the army made an additional 6.3 billion dollars of commercial payments that met the 27 criteria for payments but did not comply with other statutory and regulatory requirements.”

The Pentagon also was found to have given away another 1.8 billion in Iraqi assets “with absolutely no accountability,” said Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“Investigators examined 53 payment vouchers and couldn’t find even one that adequately explained where the money went.”

Another five billion dollars spent on supporting the Iraqi security forces could not be properly traced, according to a November 2007 inspector general report.

“Taken together, the inspector general found that the Defense Department did not properly account for almost 15 billion dollars,” Waxman said.

Someone is making a lot of money off those wars and it ain’t you and me. Our children’s children will probably be paying this fiasco off.

11 thoughts on “Defense Department can’t account for $15 billion in tax payer money.

  1. This is the hallmark of the BushCheney Administration: wanton embezzlement coupled with gross incompetence.

    Makes me wonder why people continue to support them, or have ANY argument against an Obama (or even Clinton) administration.

  2. What Simi said.  Any Republicans out there who can explain this?  Didn’t think so…

  3. Considering they palletized a lot of the cash, I’m sure some newly wealthy people in Iraq can say that it actually fell off the back of a truck. wink

  4. I’m not sure that the article is saying what you guys think it is saying. “Properly documented” and “insufficient accounting” are sort of keywords here, and basically it’s not a condemnation of how much is spent or a critique that money was misspent but a declaration that parties spending the monies did so without filing the proper forms.

    Furthermore, whenever Congress complains that they can’t always follow the cash going into the Pentagon? Well, that’s not exactly outstanding and significant – dancing around Congress with funding shuffles is just one of those practical issues of government spending. It’s always there, thats why there’s literally several entire agencies whose entire jobs it is to track spending and fix the accounting. Government accounting is every bit as onerously wrapped in red tape as anyone could ever imagine and probably a little further.

    Lastly, with the war in Iraq a lot of your government accounting depends on books that aren’t the government’s because we’re hiring so many contractors to take over roles there. Contractors often benefit from improper accounting in government spending, because the audit trails for spending government money cost a lot of effort (and money) to manage and provide and because any improprieties on the government side of things usually aid them in challenging sustainment of their contracts later on. Add in the contractors who are small and/or created solely to capitalize on war contracts and you’ve got people who in addition might not even be all that well-versed in the rules, sometimes out in the field where their government contact is some guy whose only knowledge of what the proper way to do things is that three hour meeting he slept through on the way to do his real job.

    I’m not defending the war, but in this case I think pegging blame on Bush and Company is just sort of sour grapes. If the White House has a 95% error in its own accounting then that’s the White House’s issue. Frankly though, as fucked up as things are with as many different people stirring pots in as many different places right now I think 95% correct in accounting standards and auditing is probably pretty good.

    Seriously, it means that mostly people are filling out the right forms when they order toilet paper and magazines even in Afghanistan, but sometimes they’re screwing up their forms at a 5% error rate. It’s a lot of money missing, but I probably screw up programming my DVR 5% of the time and I’m one guy.

  5. The difference being, MM, that when your screw up your DVR settings it doesn’t make $15 billion of taxpayer money disappear.

    My point is simple: If we’re going to be spending this kind of money we should be able to tell that it’s actually being put to the uses it’s intended for and not just lining some contractor’s pockets. It’s not unlike how I feel about taxes in general. I’m not against paying them so long as the money is being spent in as reasonable fashion as it can be.

  6. And MM, when I hear $X billions, I can laugh it off (although that’s like misplacing an entire Stealth Bomber or the annual budget of NASA), but when they throw things like this around:

    The lack of accountability of the funds, intended for purchases of weapons, vehicles, construction equipment and security services, amounted to a 95 percent failure rate in basic accounting standards, according to the report.

    That gets my attention.  It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you’re at least trying to do what you’re supposed to, and if so-and-so doesn’t fill out the proper form when ordering toilet paper, that’s nothing, but when a $million vanishes and they can’t even tell us where the money went (not what it paid for but what department or company or maybe country it went to) then I have to cry foul.

  7. The problem is when compared to the 09 budget outlay $2,730Bn (source gpoaccess.gov) it is only 0.54%.  We are talking rounding here.  If your Supplier quotes $1,999,950 instead $1,999,000 you are not going to notice. Its probably lost in the noise of all the big numbers. What are you going to do with £15bn.  Its a lot to us, but not to a superpower. What can you spend it on

    NHS- £105bn = $200bn.  x 5 for US population = $800bn. 
    Even if you only allow this service to the 1 in 8 US citizens below the poverty level you still need £100bn

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