GAO finds accounting problems atNavy, USMC general and flag officer homes
ARLINGTON, Va. — An audit by the General Accounting Office on maintenance costs for general and flag officer quarters revealed inconsistencies in reported “gifts” used to help renovate the homes of Marine Corps and Navy leaders.
“We found poor accounting practices during the audit. You’ll notice in the report … the difficulty we had in getting them to account for [expenditures],” report author Barry Holman said in an interview. “We had to keep asking. It’s a matter of internal control, and a weakness of theirs over time.” The GAO is Congress’ investigative branch.
Donations provided by Friends of the Home of the Commandants, a nonprofit organization started four years ago, paid for improvements such as special-order kitchen cabinets, new furnishings, reupholstering, draperies, and five custom-made area rugs totaling $53,700.
GAO investigators reviewing the financial books between 1997 through 2003 noted a $273,087 difference in the amount of money, goods and services reported from Friends, and what Corps bookkeepers recorded, the report notes.
“Although guidance exists to ensure such gifts are properly accepted, held, and used in accordance with the donor’s wishes, neither the Navy nor the Marine Corps followed these procedures for all gifts associated with furnishing the quarters of the Superintendent of the Naval Academy and the renovation of the Home of the Commandants,” reads the GAO report.
Federal law allows the services to accept money, goods and services for such projects, and Congress appropriates money annually to let the four Defense Department services maintain their combined 685 general and flag officer homes, of which 372 are classified as historic.
The Navy received $59,780 in gifts to help decorate the home of the Superintendent of the Naval Academy, and did not properly account for about $3,970, the report noted.
Marine Corps officials said it’s not a matter of poor bookkeeping, but timing.
“The project for major renovations to the Home of the Commandants was still under way during the GAO data collection period,” Corps spokesman Maj. Jason Johnston said.
The Friends of the Home of the Commandants raised $750,000 over several years to help pay for improvements such custom-made kitchen cabinets to accommodate the 12-foot ceilings, new furniture, wall coverings and draperies, and rugs, one complete with the Marine Corps emblem, said Fred Graefe, chairman of Friends of the Home of the Commandants.
“The home of the commandant is the soul of the Marine Corps,” Graefe said. “It’s the home to all Marines, past, present and future, and every Marine is exceptionally proud of the ‘old man’ who serves as commandant and lives in that home,” he said of the term for the Commandant.
GAO investigators looked at the other DOD services, too, and found the Air Force and Army spent the same or less than budgeted on all their combined 94 projects on general and flag officer homes. The Navy and Marine Corps went over budget on 13 of their 103 projects.