Wednesday, February 08, 2006

GAO Criticizes VA Savings Claims

The General Accountability Office characterized as misleading accounting methods used to claim savings of $1.3 billion in 2003 and 2004. An additional consequence of the savings claim, according to the GAO, is that budget cuts based on these numbers may have reduced availability of needed medical services to some veterans. A specific finding cited savings of $3 million on reduced overtime on deferring hiring and eliminating overtime while claiming no loss of service; at the same time, the biggest problem appeared to be a mixing of data streams resulting in inability to find documentation of the purported savings. VA Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield acknowledged shortcoming in VA accounting procedures, but criticized the insinuation that the claims were simply made to justify budget numbers.

Look for this audit to be part of the Democrats' campaign in 2006, especially in districts with significant numbers of military families. An additional aspect--the Federal Government MUST get serious about accounting reform. Some agencies and bureaus have significantly improved, but the improvement has to be across the board--with the present amount of federal spending and revenue, there is no excuse for federal accounting to be second in quality to private sector accounting.


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