Audit of Special Counsel Expenditures for the 6 Months Ended March 31, 2008

GAO-08-1122R: Published: Sep 24, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 2008.

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This report presents the results of our audit of the expenditures of the Office of Special Counsel-Patrick J. Fitzgerald (OSC-Fitzgerald) for the 6 months ended March 31, 2008. The expenditures we audited were those made by the Department of Justice (DOJ) between October 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, from the permanent, indefinite appropriation (fund) for OSC-Fitzgerald. DOJ determined that the appropriation established by Public Law 100-202 to fund expenditures by independent counsels appointed pursuant to the independent counsel law or other law is available to fund the expenditures of U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who was appointed as a special counsel within the Department of Justice by the then-Acting Attorney General. Under this law, we are required to perform semiannual financial reviews of expenditures from the fund and report our findings to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. To satisfy this requirement, we audit each expenditure processed by DOJ to determine whether it was: properly authorized and approved, supported by appropriate documentation, recorded accurately, and made in accordance with selected provisions of laws and regulations. On December 30, 2003, the then-Acting Attorney General appointed U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel to investigate whether officials of the current administration illegally disclosed the identity of an undercover Central Intelligence Agency officer. In March 2007, after a jury trial, an administration official was convicted of perjury, lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and obstruction of justice in the investigation. In July 2007, the President of the United States commuted the prison term imposed by the sentencing judge upon the administration official. The administration official dropped his appeal of his convictions in December 2007. Expenditures during this period relate to the official's appeal of his conviction of perjury and obstruction of justice charges, as well as some expenses paid during this period that were reimbursements of travel and lodging incurred during the trial and sentencing. The activities of the special counsel were, for all practical purposes concluded as of March 2008, but the office of the special counsel will continue for limited purposes, such as responding to congressional requests for information.

Our audit of the expenditures on behalf of Special Counsel Fitzgerald covering the 6 months ended March 31, 2008, found that DOJ processed expenditures totaling $72,465. We found that all of the expenditures were supported by appropriate documentation, contained proper authorizations and approvals, and were properly recorded. The expenditures consisted primarily of personnel compensation and benefits, travel, and contract services. For the period of our review, personnel compensation and benefits of employees assigned to work with the special counsel amounted to $22,020. The special counsel also incurred travel expenditure of $7,268, primarily consisting of travel to Washington, D.C., during the appeal process as well as some travel expenses paid during the current period that were reimbursements of travel and lodging expenses previously incurred during the trial and sentencing. In addition, the special counsel paid $43,177 for contractual services incurred during the investigation, trial, sentencing, and appeal process. These services relate primarily to charges from the General Services Administration (GSA) for heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning services in the building that housed the Washington, D.C., special counsel offices. GSA charged the special counsel for these extra hours of ventilation services because the offices were left open especially for the special counsel office, so that personnel could work evenings and weekends during the 10-month period from October 1, 2006, to August 1, 2007. Although most of these charges were incurred primarily before the current 6-month reporting period, they were billed by GSA and paid by the special counsel during the current audit period. Our tests for compliance with selected provisions of laws and regulations disclosed no instances of noncompliance with respect to the expenditures processed by DOJ on behalf of OSC-Fitzgerald that would be reportable under U.S. generally accepted government auditing standards.

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