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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 Vinson. 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 Department 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 you had separate 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 President, 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 Ġeneral.
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.
Representative COCHRAN. I say, if that is what you want and Congress is willing to give it to you, why not leave the Comptroller General's office and the General Accounting Office as it is, taking those two functions away from it.
Mr. BROWNLOW. If you took those two functions away from it, it would not be as it is. We are interested in the independent audit so that there will be an independent audit making regular reports to the Congress of the types of information that Mr. Buck there began to read for the use of Congress, in order to hold the Executive to stricter accountability than Congress has ever been able to hold him, or than any system we have ever had in this country.
On the other hand, there is the necessity of the accounting system being in the Treasury Department—I mean, the executive department–because of the fact that you require in day-to-day operations accounting information to enable the responsible administrative officers to carry out their work.
If I may make just one illustration out of my own experience in a very much smaller government, it is true in a city government– I will take a particular one, the city of Knoxville, where I happened to be city manager—the system there was that there was a director of finance, and that director of finance was responsible for the collection of the revenues and for the expenditures under a budget which had been adopted and passed by the council. He had an agent, of course, in charge of revenues and one in charge of expenditures. That man made the expenditures only after he certified and the director of finance signed the certificate that there was money available not otherwise obligated in the particular appropriation account. And then, and not until then, was an expenditure made. At the very next desk to him sat an auditor. This auditor was the representative of a firm of c. p. a.'s that the city employed. The moment that check was passed the auditor audited it, put it in his accumulative report. So that at the end of every quarter, on the fifth day after the end of the quarter, the c. p. a. presented a complete report to the council, an audit of all the transactions for that quarter. Annually they were accumulated, and it only required about 2 weeks for an annual report to be in. Yet he was an independent auditor; he was employed by the council; he reported to the council. And I can tell you that I, the city manager, the director of finance handling the fiscal affairs for all of the departments, the heads of the various departments, were extremely careful about what they did, because they knew an independent auditor, who was not going to participate in any of their work, who would tell them in advance, or make an agreement in advance, about what was going to be, and of course that report was going to be to the committee of the council and then to the council.
I will give you another illustration. In my own organization-I have now a very small one—I have an office manager and I have a general appropriation account. And then I have some money to be expended for special purposes by specific units. There happens to be a unit for which I have a special appropriation. That particular unit needed a new typewriter. My office manager came to me and said they needed a new typewriter. I happened to go by, and I saw they did need a new typewriter. I said, “Buy it and charge it to that account.” The next morning my accountant, or bookkeeper, came in and said,
“You cannot charge that typewriter to that account.” I said, "You need it; I saw it myself.” “Yes; but you have got to provide for it in the budget; and if I charge it there, when the auditors come around they will raise Cain with me."
So, therefore, it has the deterrent effect on the administrative official of knowing he cannot get permission in advance, and that he must stand on his own responsibility, and knowing that an independent auditor is to come along and make an audit for the legislative branch-in this case, my trustee.
Representative Vinson. If your budget carries the item and you budget the typewriter, then, if it were a Government transaction, would the Auditor General report the fact to Congress that on a certain day a department bought a certain kind of typewriter at so many dollars?
Mr. BROWNLOW. Oh, no; not where it was provided for. But if any member of any committee wanted that auditor to make a special investigation of anything, he would.
Representative VINSON. What would the auditor report to this committee?
Mr. BROWNLOW. Mr. Buck began reading a list and did not finish it.
Representative Vinson. I realize that.
Mr. MERRIAM. He never finished as to what the Auditor General would do. He has never finished yet.
Senator HARRISON. He got down to no. 8.
The CHAIRMAN. He cannot submit them as long as he is being questioned.
Senator BARKLEY. I thought this remark Mr. Buck brought out exemporaneously
Representative VINSON (interposing). I submit, Mr. Chairman, that when I started interrogating him he was through reading that paper.
Senator HARRISON. Were you, Mr. Buck?
Mr. Buck. I still have one more point. I still have one more page, but that is immaterial.
Representative VINSON. When did you write it?
Representative Vinson. I beg your pardon. I thought you were through.
Representative MEAD. Go ahead, Mr. Buck, and let us hear you.
Mr. BUCK. I had just jotted down some of the things I had previously talked to Mr. Brownlow about.
Senator BYRD. You have not read no. 9, have you? Mr. BUCK. No. [Reading:] 9. Report annually to Congress on financial practices and procedures and more frequently on postaudits of expenditures and receipts.
Mr. MERRIAM. You say under no. 9 "all financial expenditures." That needs elaboration ?
Mr. Buck. Yes; that goes into all the relations of the Executive in that respect. It would enable auditors to examine and satisfy