State Department can't account for $6 billion in last 6 years

After six months, the search for missing State Department accounting records continues.

Multiple websites, including the American Thinker, reported in early April 2014 that, “There has been, in the most charitable interpretation, grave sloppiness in spending and accounting for money at the cabinet agency run by Hillary Clinton.”  The sloppiness involves $6,000,000,000.

The story started in a 5-pages, UNCLASSIFIED, March 20, 2014 memorandum, “Management Alert (Contract File Management Deficiencies),” from the Office of Inspector General (OIG), United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, wherein the bad news came in the first paragraph:

“The Office of Inspector General (OIG), in recent audits, investigations, and inspections, has identified significant vulnerabilities in the management of contract file documentation that could expose the Department to substantial financial losses. Specifically, over the past 6 years, OIG has identified Department of State (Department) contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all. The failure to maintain contract files adequately creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department's contract actions.”

In a subsequent memorandum, dated March 28, 2014, the OIG recommended that the State Department take administrative actions designed to remedy its accounting deficiencies.

Presumably, efforts to track the $6,000,000,000 are also underway at Foggy Bottom. Maybe.

On July 14, 2014, a State Department spokesperson, communicating on background to this writer via email, stated:

“At this time, the Department continues to work on the issues raised by the OIG in its audit and to improve its file management.  We are in regular communication with the OIG to update them on our progress.”

So, the State Department continues to work on the issues raised the OIG. But what’s the scope of the “work?” Are there serious efforts underway to track where the $6,000,000,000 went, and for what purposes? Or, do the “issues raised” only call for repairing a faulty accounting system for the future?

On September 12, 2014, a v-mail query to Norm Brown, OIG’s Assistant Inspector General/Audits, concerning the status of the search for the “missing $6,000,000,000 was answered, via email, by Douglas Welty, Congressional & Public Affairs Officer, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of State.  Welty stated:

“It is important to note that this was NOT a case of $6 billion in missing funds. As we state in the management alert, contracts with a total of $6 billion have been identified over six years, where the contract files are incomplete or cannot be located. This creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control.

We understand the Department is searching for these files, and we are actively monitoring the Department’s compliance with the recommendations made in the management alert.”

So, the $6,000,000,000 is not “missing.”  It’s just a case of there not being thorough and accurate accounting for the various disbursements of the money.

If what you thought was your cash-heavy bank account unexpectedly shows a zero balance, and you’ve not tapped into it since your last statement, your money isn’t really missing. It’s just not accounted for.

It all depends on what the meaning of missing is. 

It’s been six months since the documentation of $6,000,000,000 of State Department expenditures was identified as subject to the “significant vulnerabilities in the management of contract file documentation” employed by the United States Department of State.

At least one of those inadequate files, perhaps one that “could not be located at all,” has been missing now for six-a-half-years.

Consequently, the public servant who was the Secretary of State at the time the money went AWOA (Absent WithOut Accounting) might ask, “What difference does it make now, anyway?”

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