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Mr. BUCK. Yes.
Representative T'ABER. Well, now, you must understand that you are proposing a rather radical change in the method of handling the Government's business. Have you gone into it to an extent that makes you feel justified in giving us your views on that subject!
Mr. Buck. You mean in recommending this proposed system?
Representative TABER. Now, can you give us three or four outstanding instances where administration has been interferred with by the Comptroller General ?
Mr. Buck. I understand that you are receiving quite a number of those, and that they are being cataloged now.
Representative TABER. I haven't seen any.
Mr. Buck. I understand that the committee has. I prefer to let you consider them, if you will.
Representative TABER. But I feel that when a man comes here and proposes such a radical change he should have a basis for it.
Mr. BUCK. I think we can present to the committee a basis for it on the actual examples.
Representative TABER. Quite so.
Representative TABER. Are you able to put into the record outstanding examples of that character?
Mr. BUCK. I think we shall; yes.
Senator BYRNES. Congressman, may I say someone was asked to present that for the record. I think Mr. Wren has some reports. I haven't talked to him.
Mr. WREN. I have, Senator.
Senator BYRNES. If you have, I wish you would turn them over to Congressman Taber at some time.
Mr. WREN. I will be glad to. I have reports from the various executive departments and independent agencies as to these specific instances. I am now cataloging them, as the witness says. I will be glad to turn them over to anybody that wants to see them, but I have only one copy of each.
Mr. BROWNLOW. Could not copies be made for the committee?
Mr. Wren. Yes; but the copies would be almost as voluminous as the records of the hearings.
Senator BYRNES. I think you ought to turn them over to Congressman Taber. Let him look them over and determine what is to be put in the record.
Senator BYRD. I assume, Mr. Chairman, that the Comptroller General's office will have an opportunity to be heard as to these charges that have been made against it at the proper time. The committee, it seems to me, will have to have copies sooner or later.
The CHAIRMAN. How voluminous are these records?
Mr. WREN. Well, I should say they are a stack of documents a foot high.
Representative TABER. Now, the set-up that you have suggested here for Treasury accounts offices is essentially a duplication of the work that is now being performed by the General Accounting Office, is it not? It involves an additional set-up beyond what now exists?
Mr. BUCK. Well, it involves some of those functions which it is proposed to transfer. Insofar as the Comptroller General performs a preaudit, that will be transferred.
Representative TABER. But a very large proportion of the job will be a duplication of the work now performed? Mr. Buck. No; I would not say there would be any duplication. Representative TABER. There is nothing additional?
Mr. BUCK. No; I do not say that. You would transfer certain personnel from the General Accounting Office. So far as it can be used, it will be used in this new organization. You see, it is a realinement of the accounting functions; that is what it really is. You now have the Comptroller General controlling administrative accounts, running a general set of accounts, which he has started recently, and doing the control functions, and also the audit functions. We propose to transfer all except the postaudit functions, and consequently the staff that is engaged on those other functions. So you would not have a duplication so far as the staff is concerned, assuming that the staff was qualified and could be utilized properly.
Representative TABER. I wish you would illustrate for the record, if you can, one of the most controversial items that might go through the General Accounting Office at the moment, and tell us the steps that are required, at the moment, with the present set-up, and tell us the steps that would be required and what would have to be done under the new proposed set-up. Trace one item clear through both steps.
Mr. Buck. That is a rather long process. I have prepared a chart to show you what it is.
Representative TABER. If you acknowledge that you cannot do it, that is all I care about.
Mr. Buck. Well, I can do it. It involves a lot of tedious accounting operations.
Representative TABER. I know I can't do it.
Representative TABER. I would hesitate to come here and suggest this unless I had analyzed the situation in that way. That is my opinion.
Senator HARRISON. What you want is just an illustration to show how you do it presently and how you do it under this plan?
Representative TABER. Yes.
Mr. GULICK. Congressman, you say you would like to have a controversial example. What would you suggest ?
Representative TABER. Well, for instance, a contract including the bids. I will give you an illustration that I know of. Take the contract and bids for a particular kind of bulbs required by the Tennessee Valley, where the Comptroller General has broken down a. departmental attempt to prevent certain parties from bidding, and has opened it up. Now, if you can get one of those, I can give you the decision and you can work it out. That would be one of the controversial items, and one where probably some of these people might
say it interfered with administration, where the Department was very much better satisfied after they were all through than they were before. Now, I would suggest Mr. Buck chase one of those down. I will give you the dope to start with, if you would like to have it.
Senator BYRNES. Mr. Congressman, has the Comptroller preaudited the Tennessee Valley expenses?
Representative TABER. He has exercised that function in some of those contract instances. I do not know whether he has generally.
Senator BYRNES. I think it is a postaudit, is it not?
Representative TABER. This is worked out so that it has been in effect a preaudit, anyway,
Senator BARKLEY. Mr. Chairman, in that connection and in connection with the previous discussion as to the Comptroller General being an agent of Congress, and going contrary to the will of Congress in the matter of expenditures, if it has not been done, I would like to have the right to insert in the record the list of lawsuits in the District of Columbia against the Comptroller General, charging him with exceeding his authority.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you wish to do it now?
Senator BYRD. When that is done, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask that it be referred to the Comptroller General for his reply, in explanation of the different suits.
Senator BARKLEY. I have no objection to that. I think it would be well to have it in the record.
The CHAIRMAN. Very well. When you are ready to present the matter we can determine what action should be taken.
Representative GIFFORD. Mr. Chairman, I have been waiting to make a suggestion.
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly. Go ahead.
Representative GIFFORD. The suggestion was that the legislative function to appropriate money, and that it is practically none of our function, after we handed it over to the President to control the. expending of it.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you concluded ?
Senator BYRD. Mr. Chairman, I would like to question Mr. Buck further in regard to the claims. Exactly what power would the Auditor General have in connection with the claims that had been settled by the Secretary of the Treasury!
Mr. Bück. He can review them thoroughly, including all supporting documents.
Senator BYRD. Can he review it as to whether it was a proper settlement ?
Mr. Buck, Certainly.
Mr. Buck. I do not know. I am not familiar, I am sorry, with the bill.
Senator BYRD. My understanding is, so far as the claim is concerned, that the Auditor General cannot go into the merit of the settlement.
Mr. Buck. He can go into the merits to the extent of reporting on it to the Congress, in deciding whether it has been made correctly.
Senator Byrd. Do you mean you will have a duplicate review of all the claims?
Mr. Buck. I think he has been given power to investigate any books or records or documents.
Senator BYRD. Mr. Buck, then you are going to duplicate the work, so far as the claim is concerned, you are going to have the Secretary of the Treasury decide whether certain claimants are entitled to the money that they ask, and then you are going to have the Auditor General review that question?
Mr. Buck. Yes; he can do anything he chooses; he can review it or not. If he thinks it needs intensive review he can make an intensive review. He can go right out in the field. He can investigate the thing on the spot and see if the contract was performed as it specifies, if he wishes.
Senator Byrd. You think that will not increase the cost, by having two investigations of claims!
Mr. Buck. If a judicious choice was made of those things that seem to need investigation and the others were eliminated, instead of the present procedure by which everything goes through the mill whether it is important or unimportant, I daresay it would not increase the cost.
Senator BYRD. But if a claim is made by a party who has a contract with the Government, it is not a question of the executive management necessarily, what is wrong with Mr. Cochran's suggestion that all the claims be in the Auditor General's office as they are now?
Mr. Buck. I do not know where you would draw a line there, Senator, I really do not.
Senator BYRD. Here is a conflict between an agency of the Government and a private individual, a corporation, about the payment of money.
Mr. Buck. The shadowy line between claims and other obligations of the Government would be very hard to settle. Besides that, I think it is wrong. If he is going to be relieved of one thing, I would relieve him of the other.
Senator BYRD. You think a claim is the same as a payment regarding which there is no objection on the part of the party that receives the money?
Mr. Buck. Of course, the term is variously used. Everything is a claim against the Government, in general terms. I presume you are speaking of claims based on contracts?
Senator Byrd. I am speaking of the claims regarding which there is a controversy. In other words, somebody is dissatisfied in what the department of the Government decides to pay them, and they make a claim.
Mr. Buck. If there is a controversy or a complaint, the Auditor General will get all the facts together and if the Secretary of the Treasury does not settle it, then he will take it to the Joint Committee.
Senator BYRD. I am getting back to the theory upon which you are operating, namely, the control of the expenditures by the Comptroller General, the interference with the administration of the
executive departments. How could the settlement of claims interfere with the administration of the executive agencies, if they are contested in Auditor General's office? Here is a claim made by someone outside of the Government, someone that has a contract with the GovernmentMr. Buck (interposing). It is a contested claim ? Senator BYRD. It is a contested claim. Mr. Buck. That can be handled under this proposed set-up.
Mr. GULICK. Senator, the difficulty with the settlement of claims arises not only from the point which Mr. Buck has mentioned with reference to the difficulty of drawing a line so as not to interfere with executive action, but it is far more serious in that it completely obliterates the audit' on that settlement. I can give you an illustration of it in a building that was erected in Vermont, in which the claim was made that the original bid had been incorrect through a clerical error. That went to the Comptroller General here. The Comptroller General allowed, I think, in this case, $20,000 additional, and there was no report to the Congress. I think there is no audit in that case by a man independent from the man who made the allowance of $20,000. The minute you permit your auditor officially to make the settlement and the audit, you have no audit left of those transactions.
Representative COCHRAN. Was that at the place called Rutland, Vt.?
Mr. GULICK. I do not remember the name of it. There are other situations in which there has been no reference, because he has the power to make the settlement, but in the case you mentioned a moment ago, of a contractor who is subject to reduction of his claim, when that decision has been made by the Comptroller under the present system, who audits it? The man who made the decision audits it.
Representative COCHRAN. Well, there must be an end somewhere to everything. Would you have someone audit Congress after it renders its decision? There must be an end somewhere.
Mr. GULICK. But the end must not be, in the case of the spending of money, the end must not be an audit by the man who spent the money.
Representative COCHRAN. That is exactly what I am telling you. What I have been trying to impress upon you. The spender should be checked.
Senator BYRNES. The case referred to in Vermont was at North Troy, not Rutland.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, gentlemen, the hour of 12 o'clock is near at hand.
Senator BYRNES. May I ask if Mr. Buck has charts as to the present situation? I wish that he would leave them with us.
Representative TABER. May he distribute them so we will have them?
(The charts referred to were distributed among the members of the committee.)
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen, I will confer with the chairman of the House committee and I will fix a convenient time for our future meeting