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themselves on the use of any and every appropriation. Of course, you see it would not be feasible nor advisable to go into great detail in all cases. Sometimes an auditor might take sample cases and trace them down in great detail in order that he might satisfy himself about some practices that looked to be inimical to the best interests of the Government. I have in mind that the Auditor General would have a free range through his representatives in the accounting system and the fiscal records of the Government, and that he could go into any department, into the Treasury, or into any local office, and demand to count the cash, if he wished to, look at the vouchers, look at the checks, look at the books, look at the reports, or look at anything that was pertinent to fiscal management and procedure. And if he thought the procedure was not proper, if he thought it did not offer proper checks and safeguards in the handling of the Government's finances, he would be at liberty to say so and to make recommendations either for administrative action or for congressional action.
Representative Vinson. To the joint committee.
Mr. BUCK. To any committee of Congress that is concerned with fiscal affairs. In other words, he would be the congressional staff agency, with two or three hundred A-No. 1 good auditors and investigators, and not a bunch of clerks that would simply use rubber stamps.
Representative VINSON. That is the fisrt time I have heard you use the term “investigator.” We have been talking about the term
auditing." The audit is all right to show the dollar picture, but in my mind there is more to it than just the auditing of the accounts.
Mr. BUCK. Certainly.
Representative Vinson. There has got to be an investigation and reporting on the manner in which that dollar has been spent.
Mr. Buck. The accounts only show pictures of the expenditures that the Government has made. I think any of us agree on that.
Representative VINSON. That is all right. But you have always been talking about auditing, and that does not bring the whole picture to Congress.
Mr. Buck. Mr. Vinson, when I spoke of auditing, I meant something more than some one casually sticking his nose in a voucher and adding it up, and if the total looked all right then put a stamp on it. I mean more than that.
Representative VINSON. I have not heard anybody speak of that until just now as investigating.
Senator BYRD. Mr. Buck, which one of these paragraphs is it that you read that the present Comptroller General cannot control under present law?
Mr. BUCK. I had not looked at it with that in mind, but he could probably do the majority of them. But at the present moment I think he is doing satisfactorily only about one or two.
Senator BYRD. Is the failure of this accounting system due to the personnel and management, or is it due to the law itself?
Mr. Buck. As I said the other day, Senator, the system is at fault in my way of thinking. I believe that, irrespective of the type of staff that the General Accounting Office might have, entirely too much work is being loaded on at one point to get a good job done.
It is coming from all over the country. That situation alone makes for delay. - Senator BYRD. Has the General Accounting Office been given ali the appropriations they required, and is it not possible to decentralize the general accounting system, just as Mr. Brownlow said this new system would be decentralized ?
Mr. BUCK. Oh, yes; it could be done. But the practice for the last 15 years, as you know, has been in the other direction. In fact, I recall the Comptroller General demanded that certain documents be sent up to Washington so he would not have to send his men into the field.
Senator BYRD. I know; but Congress could require it be decentralized, could it not?
Mr. Buck. Yes; but then you must decentralize the Treasury functions in order to get the two working hand in hand.
Senator BYRD. In your judgment has the failure of this system adopted in 1921 been mainly due to the administration or mainly due to the law ?
Mr. Buck. I would say the law is at fault in that it has vested incompatible functions in one agency, and that the administration has been difficult under these circumstances. Also that the organization of the department or the agency itself has been rather poor for handling its work.
Senator BYRD. You have laid great stress on the failure of the Comptroller General to make reports to Congress. Are you aware of the fact that Congress, certainly in one instance, did not provide money to print the report!
Mr. Buck. Those were the annual reports, were they not?
Senator BYRD. And he certainly could not make them if he did not have the money to print them.
Mr. Buck. It is not necessary to print them.
Senator BYRD. And it is not the fault of the Comptroller General that he had no agency to present the report to.
Mr. BUCK. It was unforeseen in the beginning, I think. I do not think Congress appreciated just what this whole thing involved. It was a new office. I do not think the Comptroller General appreciated the significance of the change. Only after 15 years do we begin to see where we are going. You have had in the last 5 years an enormous volume of expenditures piled on the fiscal system. It is beginning to creak all over. And we can now pick out the weak spots and see where adjustments and readjustments ought to be made.
Senator BYRD. Could you not strengthen the present system without destroying it?
Mr. Buck. I think I would agree to that, but I think there are other things that are highly desirable which we could not get, even by that process.
Senator BYRD. What disturbs me, frankly, about it all, is the control of the audit. Now, different arguments have been made on behalf of that. One argument is interference with the administration of the departments of the Government, and that this officer, who is supposed to be responsible to Congress, has arbitrarily exercised his power in such a way that the act of the administration of the departments has been seriously interfered with. It seems to me that the answer to that is if the Comptroller General has improperly conducted his office then a new Comptroller General can be apopinted. A vacancy now exists. It is not necessary to destroy the old system merely because somebody did not properly fulfill his duty, if it is true that he did not.
Mr. Buck. I agree with you, Senator, that with the proper personnel you can accomplish a great deal that has not been accomplished, but I do not think it remedies these things we have been talking about.
Senator BYRD. I am not at all satisfied that the postaudit is going to accomplish these things which seem to be necessary. What I am talking about is why this present system could not be strengthened, retaining the fundamental principle that there will be a control audit, outside of the Executive, responsive to Congress. I think Congress is entitled to somebody representing them, to see that the money is legally spent, because I do not agree for a moment after that money is spent any recovery can be effected.
Representative VINSON. The question of power there is a very serious one, I think, Senator Byrd. When that agency is of the legislative, to my mind, it is beyond our power. I dislike to reach. that conclusion too, but I think the authorities make it rather clear that after Congress appropriates money with limitations that anything that it wants as to spending that then it is a responsibility of the Executive as to the spending of that money.
Senator BYRD. Only to this extent, I think, Mr. Vinson, if Congress appropriates the money and says it shall be spent in a certain way, namely, bids shall be asked for, and a number of restrictions shall be required, then I think Congress has a right to know these appropriations have been legally expended in accordance with the law.
Representative VINSON. Congress may have a right to know, and should know how it is spent, but getting rid of that particular money is an executive function. And if the executive fails to live up to the law, why Congress can refuse the appropriation next time, but Congress, in my opinion, cannot tie a rope on to a dollar and hand it over to the Executive and still control the manner of the expenditure by the Executive.
Senator BYRD. I do not agreed with Mr. Vinson on that. I think Congress has a right to appropriate money and say exactly how that money is to be spent, spent by bids, by restrictions, and so forth, which may be placed by Congress upon it. And that money should not be spent unless the restrictions and regulations placed on it by Congress are obeyed.
Senator BARKLEY. That would require Congress to set up a monetary form of legislation and say that the money should be spent that way every day of the year.
Representative VINSON. Congress has attempted it in many ways, attempted through the judiciary, to control the spending of the money and knock down the law.
Senator BYRD. The judiciary is entirely different.
Representative Vinson. I know; but it is a question whether or not the legislative branch has that power, and I think you will find the Supreme Court has answered that question several times.
Senator BYRD. The whole theory of this Accounting Act in 1921 is based upon that proposition. That certainly has been sustained through years, because it has been in operation for 15 years.
Representative VINSON. I know it may have been sustained, because there may not have been any way to reach it, but I think the legal support of the control features in the Comptroller General was a very, very weak one.
Mr. Buck. Then it is your feeling, Mr. Vinson, that if it was brought up before the Supreme Court the whole thing might be thrown out?
Representative Vinson. If it could be reached. I do not think the legislative branch has the power of controlling expenditures appropriated by Congress of the Comptroller General.
Representative TABER. The Comptroller General was not set up as an agent of Congress. He was set up as an independent executive department. That was specifically declared in the law.
Representative VINSON. How is that?
Representative TABER. The Comptroller General was not set up as an agent of Congress, but he was set up as an independent executive department, an independent agency, independent of all executive departments. That is specific in the law.
Representative VINSON. Independent of all executive departments! Now, when is it independent of all executive departments?
Representative TABER. It does not say independent of the Chief Executive.
Representative Vinson. I see.
Representative VINSON. Now, if it is independent of all the executive departments, where is it?
Representative TABER. It is an independent office evidently under the President.
Representative Vinson. Who removes? Who has the power under the act to remove the Comptroller General? It is the Congress?
Representative COCHRAN. Nobody has the power except the Congress.
Representative VINSON. I recall that, and it has always been understood it is legislative. Of course, if it is not of the legislative I take back all I said.
Senator BYRD. Of course, I am not a lawyer, and know nothing about the Constitution, but I should certainly think Congress has a right to prescribe the ways and means whereby the money shall be properly spent.
Representative CoCHRAN. Congress can limit the purposes of the expenditures, but there are numerous decisions to support Mr. Vinson's contention.
The CHAIRMAN. I think the Comptroller General regards himself as an agent of the Congress rather than as an agent of the Executive. I have talked with him personally, and he has emphasized the fact that the Comptroller General is the legislative agent.
Senator BYRD. That is the basis of the act.
The CHAIRMAN. And therefore the pertinency of the remark of the gentleman from Kentucky, can Congress, after it makes an appropriation, through its agent, which is the same as it is itself for the purposes of this discussion, control the expenditure? The point that Mr. Vinson makes is, to my mind, a very clear one, namely, that after the appropriation has been made upon any condition Congress sees fit to adopt it then devolves upon the Executive, and not upon the legislative, to make the expenditure in conformity with the conditions. If so, I think that it is a very serious question whether we can say by legislation that we not only make this appropriation and attach conditions for its expenditure, but we will make the expenditure, or make the expenditures, ourselves. I agree with Mr. Vínson that the Supreme Court would probably hold, or any other court would probably hold, that it is an effort to exercise a legislative function by the legislative department, and therefore futile.
Senator BYRD. The act of 1921 did just that, did it not, so it has been in effect 15 years?
The CHAIRMAN. I think it is true the bill intended to prescribe an agent of the legislative department, and not an agent of the executive. But that is the point Mr. Vinson makes, as I understand it, that we cannot, either in an act heretofore passed, or in an act hereafter to be passed, exercise a valid legislative authority by controlling an expenditure, by directing an expenditure, by making an expenditure after we have made the appropriation.
Representative VINSON. There is no question but what you could have control in the executive.
The CHAIRMAN. No.
Representative VINSON. Of course, that is sought here under this President's committee, to place that power of control in the Treasury, but it seems to me if you had the independent unit that would not be subservient to any department, or department head, that you would really have more independent control than you would if it were under a department.
Senator LA FOLLETTE. Mr. Chairman, if there was as much confusion in the minds of Congress as to the functions that the Comptroller General would perform at the time it enacted the statute as this hearing has developed as to what he has been doing since the statute was enacted I can understand there might be some difference of opinion as to what the Congress had done and what it had not done when it passed the law. Now, Mr. Buck, I would like to ask you a few questions. May I?
Mr. BUCK. Yes, sir.
Senator La FOLLETTE. As I understand it, your position and the statements which you have made are not to be taken as any criticisms of any person or any groups of persons who have administered this act, is that correct?
Mr. BUCK. That is correct.
Senator LA FOLLETTE. And that your criticisms are directed to what
you believe to be the incompatible functions and duties which were imposed upon the Comptroller General, is that correct?
Mr. BUCK. Yes, sir.
Senator BYRD. Mr. Buck just stated there that he thought the duties could have been much better and more efficiently performed than they were. It is in the record.
Senator La FOLLETTE. Is it or is it not your opinion, Mr. Buck, that any individual, no matter who it would have been, who had been