Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

Twenty-Seven Years of Challenge

Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

Twenty-Seven Years of Challenge

Article excerpt

Few career government employees get the opportunities that I have had to work in three different career fields auditing, accounting and information technology. In fact, I had the privilege of serving as the senior civilian auditor in the Air Force, the senior accountant in the Army and the senior information technology operator in the Department of Defense (DOD). In addition to working in several career fields, I also worked in many different locations: Panama, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, Japan, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Greece -- not to mention the Stateside locations such as Texas, California, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Colorado, Indiana, and of course, Washington D. C.-- all of which adds up an exciting and rewarding career. In a word . . . it has been FUN!

The one aspect of my career that I am most appreciative of, however, is the fact that I was able to work in a reasonably autonomous mode during most of my years with the government. This not only gave me a sense of independence, it also enabled me to introduce some innovative concepts that made work exciting, and in the process, saved taxpayers a few dollars as well. The audit function offered the most visible opportunity to innovate. In Panama as an auditor, for example, I observed that the Army ammunition storage facilities were overcrowded, antiquated and very expensive to operate. These Army facilities were built around the turn of the century with single steel doors which meant you couldn't use fork lifts to unload the ammo; everything had to be done manually. In addition, these storage bunkers leaked water and were full of insects, snakes and virtually every other critter you can imagine. Just the opposite situation existed at the Air Force base - they had like-new "igloos" with double steel doors and a ramp that enabled trucks to back up and have fork lifts unload their cargo. The Air Force facilities were only 15 percent utilized. Obviously, our audit team recommended consolidation into a joint operation. That was my first exposure to trying to consolidate multi-Service operations. What an experience! You would have thought I was proposing a marriage between Golda Meir and Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, reason prevailed and the consolidation took place, saving millions of dollars in operating costs every year.

Next came an audit at Yuma Proving Grounds where we discovered a warehouse full of 50 caliber machine guns that no one knew existed. These guns had been taken off of tanks that underwent testing in Yuma during WWII; unfortunately, the local people forgot to send the guns out with the tanks when they completed testing. As it turned out, these guns were still very much in demand, so taxpayers benefited from the fact that proper accountability was established as a result of the audit.

After that there was a fraud audit at Fort Huachuca where we found the NCO club manager was stocking his own private club in downtown Tucson with liquor from the Army club. This audit went so well in terms of findings, it was decided that I ought to try the same thing in Vietnam -- the ultimate auditor's paradise for sensational findings. The club scandals in Vietnam were well publicized, so I won't belabor that point.

Not only did we find improprieties in Vietnam club operations, we also found the same type situation everywhere we audited. Take, for example, medical depot storage facilities. Jim Woods and I observed that the four in country medical depots were experiencing extremely high inventory losses because of the expiration of shelf-life items. When we investigated why, we found most of the hospitals and medical support units were ordering their supplies direct from the depot in Okinawa because they shipped faster than the in-country depots. Therefore, Jim and I recommended that everything be shipped from Okinawa and that the in-country depots be shut down to save an inventory investment of $30 million. This inefficiency was but one of the major problems that we pointed out in our audit report. …

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