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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 the 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 ŅINSON. 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
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 all 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. Bock. I think I would agree to that, but I think there are other things that are highly desirable which we could not get, eren 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. Whèn 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 Vixson. 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 Vixson. 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.