DOD financial progress praised

The GAO report

The General Accounting Office issued a report this week lauding the Defense Department's policies to reduce payment recording errors and commercial and travel card payment delinquencies.

GAO cited "significant reductions" in discrepancies and said DOD used methods that were "either consistent with or better than those used for prior reporting on these issues."

Nevertheless, the report says DOD still has a long way to go. "DOD's archaic and nonintegrated systems either do not contain the transaction-level detail to support the completeness and accuracy of the metrics or they make it extremely onerous or time-consuming for the staff to gather and reconcile the needed detail," the report states.

"However, we were able to verify that DOD has made numerous policy, procedure and systems changes that support an overall trend toward improved performance in these areas," the report continued.

The moves DOD has taken could be effective indicators of short-term financial management progress, the report read.

GAO recommended that DOD continue its current progress and work closely with the military services and other defense agencies to develop performance measures that complement the metrics program.

GAO made three recommendations for DOD to follow to achieve cleaner books, and DOD concurred:

* The comptroller should use definitions and criteria that are consistent with Defense Finance and Accounting Service definitions and criteria when calculating and reporting metrics related to payment recording errors.

* The comptroller should measure improvements in individually billed travel card delinquencies by using same month to same month comparisons.

* The comptroller should work with the assistant secretaries for financial management to develop performance measures for the military services and other defense agencies in areas for which there are shared responsibilities.

Of the 27 large audited federal agencies, 24 received a passing score from their 2002 audit. DOD was among the laggards.

DOD received another disclaimer, a regular occurrence with the unwieldy finances of the department, but is working on developing a financial management enterprise architecture to get its books in order. DOD has received disclaimers for at least five consecutive annual audits.

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