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than he could, when you multiply that by a million you are going to pyramid the records before the joint committee to such an extent that they won't be perused and cannot be considered.
Senator LA FOLLETTE. May I say this, Mr. Vinson, is not one of the troubles in the whole situation—at least I can plead guilty myself, not having been on the Appropriations Committee very long. but I have just gone under the assumption, until this report came in and we have had these hearings, that we had something and were getting something from the Comptroller General that we were not getting at all—and is not that the misapprehension that the country is laboring under, that we have got a Comptroller General who is absolutely exercising some control, and we find that he is not, and that we have got a situation here where we have assumed we have got something just because we have a statute, but in actual practice we have not been getting it.
The CHAIRMAN. The provision that I referred to a few minutes ago not only relates to the Bureau of the Budget, but there is a very similar one with reference to the Comptroller General. He is required under the original Budget Act of 1921 to make such investigations and reports as shall be ordered by either house of the Congress, or by any committee of either house having jurisdiction over revenues, appropriations, or expendituers.
The Comptroller General is also at the request of any such committee directing assistance from his office to furnish the committee such aid and information as it may request.
That is the provision of the existing budget law.
Senator HARRISON. Mr. Chairman, if you will permit it, I agree with Senator La Follette, I was under the impression that the Comptroller General was making his regular reports to Congress, until this investigation came on and I found out that he has not been.
Now, I do not agree with Mr. Vinson in this matter. I know my committee has called on the Budget Bureau for information touching certain things many times and it has always responded. We have never called on the Comptroller General for information.
Representative TABER. You have never called on the Comptroller General and he has failed to answer?
Representative VINSON. We called on the Bureau of Efficiency to give us certain information, and the Bureau of Efficiency under the law was supposed to report on the Budget, and they refused to give it to us.
Representative COCHRAN. You did not call on the proper official or you would have secured it.
Representative Vinson. I want to say this, gentlemen, that it is very difficult for Congress to get information in order to cross-examine witnesses who come down here to defend estimates. Certainly spenders of money can defend their estimates, and particularly so if the fellow across the table has no information, real information, with which he can dig in.
I want to say for the Appropriations Committee that they do a wonderful job in the time that is allotted and the scope of the activity, but they cannot do anything more than scrape the surface when they are dealing with a billion-dollar appropriation in 1 or 2 days.
Senator HARRISON. If I recall, this committee has not made any recommendation as to any committee that will handle these reports from the Auditor General. That is a matter which is up to Congress. There may be a difference of opinion as to whether a selected committee of the House and Senate should handle it, or whether the chairman of the Appropriations Committee should. My own opinion is that the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate, or a. certain part of them, should constitute this joint committee. But I can understand that there might be some difference of opinion on that.
Mr. BROWNLOW. Mr. Chairman, may I make this statement for the committee on that point?
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly, Mr. Brownlow.
Mr. BROWNLOW. In our report, transmitted to the President, we did not prescribe the form of the committee. We said a joint or several committees. In the suggested draft of the bill we prepared in order to sharpen up the material and give it some legislative form, we did suggest in that draft of the bill a form of joint committee. But, as I explained, and as Dr. Merriam explained in our testimony before the committee, we went very gingerly about suggesting to Congress what it should do. So we did not include the particular type of committee to receive these reports in the report. We did in the bill.
Representative Vinson. But even then you have no thought expressed in the bill that the joint committee would be one that would concern itself with policy.
Mr. Brownlow. Except insofar as policy was affected by fiscal consideration.
Representative Vinson. If the joint committee is going to have anything to do with policy why, then, was it not so empowered in the bill? What good would it do to say, "You shall be interested in policy", and then bottle up all its knowledge and wisdom, without giving an outlet?
Mr. BROWNLOW. That I think certainly is a matter for the committee to consider in drafting the legislation.
What we were primarily concerned with in the report was to set up a system whereby the Congress would get information which at present under the present system it has not had, and that that information would be brought to it by an independent auditor, who would be an agent of Congress, and who, unlike the Comptroller General, would not be involved administratively in any of the transactions theretofore made, so that he would be absolutely independent and be able to criticize, without being in the position of criticizing his own transactions, or auditing his own books.
Representative Vixson. And thereby also have less knowledge as to the real workings of the executive branches of the Government.
Mr. BROWNLOW. We think very, very much more knowledge than it has now, because we do not believe that under the present system, with the auditing by the vouchers and the checks in a central office, that you can get the information that you could get by a system of audit which goes beyond those papers and into the books and is decentralized, and as the agent of the Auditor General, the agent of Congress, the agent would be present at the place and at the time so the audit could be made at once.
Representative VINSON. I have in mind knowledge which comes to the Comptroller General when he deals with control features at the present time. Certainly that gives him knowledge of the manner in which legislation is being administered, and he would not have it under the new set-up.
Mr. BROWNLOW. Oh, I think you would. I think you would have a better opportunity to get it.
Representative Vinson. I am sorry; I cannot see that.
Representative COCHRAN. Mr. Vinson, I think Senator La Fol. lette hits the nail right on the head when he said if we have not secured this information from the Comptroller General it is the fault of Congress. My committee has called upon the Comptroller General, I would say several hundred times, for reports, and we get them without delays. In fact, I think they must set work aside in order to answer without any delay, and we get a complete report from them. I can ask them for a report over the telephone and then tell them I will follow it up by a letter, and by the time my letter reaches them I have the report in writing.
What I have often complained about to Mr. McCarl on numerous occasions is that he did not take the initiative and come up to Congress and tell us when he found things wrong, so we could correct them.
The whole trouble with the Bureau of Efficiency was not exactly the trouble with the Comptroller General. It was based upon interference. The Bureau of Efficiency would go into a Government agency and tear it wide open. They would continually complain, but if you ever wanted a report from the Bureau of Efficiency you could not get it. There was one Senator over here who could always get it for you. The older members know that, too, just as well as I do.
Representative Vinson. In regard to continuing the present Comptroller General's office, you want to divorce the control from the auditing and place the control in the Executive. What do you say to having an agency independent-I realize that runs counter to the suggestions you are making but it seems to me that the facts and circumstances might justify it--not in any department, not under the control of any Cabinet head, to do this control work.
Mr. Buck. My feeling is that to have an effective control agency you must have established in connection with it a central accounting system embodying both receipts and expenditures.
Representative Vinson. Why could you not have control over the accounting system of receipts and expenditures? Why could you not have, say, just a division of the Comptroller General's office into two parts? Have your Auditor General responsive to the Congress and then have your control section responsive to the President.
Mr. Buck. That is all right, except you multiply accounting systems, and you will not have one successful central accounting system.
Representative VINSON. You are going to have one central accounting system in the Treasury, are you not?
Mr. BUCK. Yes.
Representative Vixson. If you just do not have that over there and bring it over here in the separate unit, what is the objection to that?
Mr. Buck. But you cannot strip the Treasury of accounting, because it has too many other fiscal functions.
Representative Vinson. I know; but that is the same kind of accounting the Agricultural Department would have if you brought the central accounting into a separate office.
Mr. BUCK. No; it is not, because the Agricultural Department system merely keeps up with the expenditures and receipts of that Department.
Representative VINSON. What else would the Agriculture Depart. ment want to do except to keep up with its expenditures?
Mr. Buck. But the Treasury handles money from all departments.
Representative Vinson. There is not any trouble about that. I did not think you could understand me to say that if arate units that would mean you would not keep your separate books in the Treasury.
Mr. Buck. Why have four or five accounting systems? Representative VINSON. You would not have but one. Mr. Buck. You have got an attempt now at three systems. None of them is very good. That is what I have been trying to say all of the time.
Representative VINSON. Under your plan you want an accounting system in the Treasury.
Mr. Buck. I want a real accounting system in the Treasury.
Representative VINSON. If you had a real accounting system outside the Treasury, where the head of it was appointed by the Presi. dent, a separate head, what would you think about that?
Mr. BUCK. Then you would have to have another one in the Treasury.
Representative TABER. Why do you need one in the Treasury?
Mr. Buck. To keep up with the public debt and the collections and disbursements that pass through the Treasury.
Representative VINSON. That is a Treasury function, and it seems to me it certainly should do that. And then you would have a central accounting office through which they pass their accounts.
Mr. Buck. If you will permit me to say this, Mr. Vinson, you have got a General Accounting Office and have had it for 15 years, and it has not produced a financial report for the Government in 15 years.
Representative Vinson. It seems to me that the Congress has not called on them for a report, and I have not heard anyone who has testified to that.
Mr. Buck. You have got all your financial reports from the Treasury since the General Accounting Office was created. If it were not for the Treasury and the inadequate accounting system which it has, you would not know anything at all at the present time about the financial condition of this Government.
Representative COCHRAN. Who is responsible for that policy—the accounting system in the Treasury Department, the Comptroller General, or the Secretary of the Treasury!
Mr. Buck. I understand the Comptroller General has never been over there or any of his keymen to investigate the accounting needs of the Treasury.
Representative COCHRAN. To investigate the Treasury Department?
Mr. Buck. The Secretary of the Treasury can be said to be responsible for it.
Representative COCHRAN. Why does he not put in a perfect system?
Mr. Buck. Any Secretary of the Treasury inherits the system when he comes in. The system has certain features which go back to Alexander Hamilton's day. The warrant procedure is archaic in some respects and modern in others. And the archaic does not dovetail into the modern, and they have got a very mixed procedure. Secretaries of the Treasury cannot straighten that out without some legislation, without support from Congress; they cannot do the job alone.
Representative COCHRAN. Do you know any Secretary that has ever asked Congress to do it and Congress has refused?
Mr. Buck. No. He probably struggled with what he had and did not fully realize it was not a good system until he was through with the job.
Representative COCHRAN. We have a Secretary there now, and we know about this now, and he has been there for a number of years, and his representative is down here with you, and he probably knows it, so it won't take an act of Congress to change that, will it? If it does he can get it if he asks for it.
Mr. Buck. As I said a few moments ago, there are many things you can do to help the system.
Mr. BROWNLOW. Is it not true that the power to prescribe systems of accounts by law is vested in the Comptroller General for the entire Government? It is our proposal that that power be vested in the Treasury. And if that change is made as proposed in our report, the Secretary of the Treasury would have the legal power to reorganize the system of accounts.
Repersentative COCHRAN. In asking you the question, Mr. Brownlow—and I asked Dr. Merriam the question and Mr. Buck the question—if we take the control away from the Comptroller General and the Auditor General and also give the executive branch of the Government the power to provide the administrative forms of accounting, would not that meet the situation?
Mr. BROWNLOW. That certainly is exactly what we have recommended in our report and in the bill.
Representative CoCHRAN. All right. Say we are in agreement up to there.
Mr. BROWNLOW. Yes.
Representative COCHRAN. Now, would you agree, if we do that, to leave the General Accounting Office as it is now, except we will do as you want us to do—change the name of the Comptroller General to the Auditor General ?
Mr. BROWNLOW. I do not fully understand your question.
Representative COCHRAN. You said that would do the job, when you take away the control feature from the Comptroller General.
Mr. BROWNLOW. Yes.
Representative COCHRAN. And also that the executive branch of the Government prescribe the forms of accounting used, and that is what we want?
Mr. BROWNLOW. Yes.