DOD Financial Management:
Additional Actions Needed to Complete the Army's Analyses of Unsupported Accounting Entries for Its General Fund
GAO-18-27: Published: Oct 20, 2017. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 2017.
What GAO Found
Since February 2015, the Journal Voucher Working Group (Working Group), which is comprised of Department of the Army (Army) and Defense Finance and Accounting Service personnel, has been actively working toward implementing new processes to address inadequate support for journal vouchers (JV) in the Army's general fund. JVs are accounting entries manually entered or system generated to record corrections or adjustments in an accounting system. From October 2016 to March 2017, the Working Group identified more than 121,000 unsupported JVs totaling $455 billion in one of its reporting systems, Defense Departmental Reporting System-Budgetary (DDRS-B).
In the May 2017 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan Status Report, the Army stated that it had completed its root cause analyses for all JVs. However, GAO found that the Working Group had conducted the analyses on only a small percentage of the total number of unsupported JVs that existed as of March 2017. Specifically, as of March 2017, the Working Group had been focusing on manual JVs processed in DDRS-B, which only represent 10 percent of the dollar value and 3 percent in the total number of unsupported JVs in that system alone. Therefore, the analyses cannot be considered complete because the Working Group had not yet analyzed the remainder of the population, including those in other systems. Members of the Working Group indicated that in March 2017, the Working Group began including system-generated JVs in its analyses, which made up 90 percent in dollar value and 97 percent in total number of unsupported JVs processed in DDRS-B as of March 2017, but had not yet begun identifying any root causes. Members of the Working Group stated that these efforts will be an ongoing, iterative process because of anticipated new challenges that continually arise from new business processes or programs.
As of March 2017, the Working Group reported that it had developed 38 corrective action plans to address all of the identified root causes of unsupported manual JVs in DDRS-B for the Army's general fund. According to members of the Working Group, 18 of the 38 have been implemented. However, the Working Group is unable to determine how many more corrective action plans will need to be developed to resolve the unsupported JV issue until the root cause analyses are complete. Further, GAO found that the Working Group's monitoring of corrective action plan implementation does not include a method that sufficiently identifies the progress toward fully addressing the issue of unsupported JVs or to what extent each implemented corrective action plan has reduced unsupported JVs. Members of the Working Group stated that the Working Group uses monthly JV metrics reports to monitor its implemented corrective actions, but the reports are not designed to provide the level of detail necessary to sufficiently monitor whether root causes identified are resolved through corrective action plans. Therefore, the metrics cannot demonstrate to what extent the Working Group has reduced unsupported JVs and how much more effort is required to fully address the issue and help ensure that the Army's financial statements are auditable for fiscal year 2018.
Why GAO Did This Study
The Department of Defense (DOD) remains on GAO's High-Risk List in part because of its long-standing financial management deficiencies, which have prevented it from having auditable financial statements. One of the contributing factors is the billions of dollars of unsupported JVs within DOD's accounting systems, with the largest portion attributable to the Army's general fund. Because the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 required that DOD submit audit results to Congress for fiscal year 2018, a Working Group was established to address the Army's unsupported JVs, including analyzing root causes and developing corrective action plans.
This report examines to what extent the Working Group, as of March 2017, has performed analyses and developed corrective action plans to address identified root causes. GAO reviewed and analyzed relevant documentation and interviewed agency officials and members of the Working Group.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that the Army (1) ensure that the entire population of unsupported JVs is identified and analyzed and (2) develop metrics that sufficiently monitor the extent to which the Working Group has identified root causes and determine the extent to which unsupported JVs are being reduced based on the implemented corrective actions. The Army concurred with GAO's recommendations and provided information on actions it has taken or plans to take to address them.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Comments: The Department of the Army concurred with this recommendation. The Assistant Secretary of Financial Management and Comptroller (ASA(FM&C)) with Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) began implementing the recommendation in April 2017 by establishing a Journal Voucher (JV) review initiative as part of the Business Mission Area Championship (BMAC) project. The BMAC project was established as a supplemental senior leader oversight program to the Journal Voucher Working Group (JVWG). The BMAC initiative established a schedule for a monthly sample evaluation to determine applicable support, align adjustments to a root cause, and document any newly identified root causes. The initial JV review schedule, which incorporated all applicable Army and Department of Defense Army allocated appropriations, was targeted to be completed by June 2018. Further, ASA(FM&C) along with DFAS planned to incorporate further adjustments into the monthly evaluations at a time when additional resources became available or at the conclusion of the review cycle for fiscal year 2018. However, as of August 2018, Army informed us that they were unable to meet their anticipated completion date of June 2018 and plan to be ready for follow-up analysis at the beginning of calendar year 2019.
Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller should ensure that the Working Group identifies and analyzes the full population of manual unsupported JVs at the transaction level and in Defense Departmental Reporting System-Audited Financial Statements and determines the root causes for these JVs. (Recommendation 1)
Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
Comments: The Department of the Army concurred with this recommendation. The Assistant Secretary of Financial Management and Comptroller (ASA(FM&C)) will partner with Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to reevaluate the journal voucher (JV) metric report to monitor the identification of unsupported JV root causes and reduction more clearly. Journal voucher root cause analysis, reduction, and support will be an ongoing effort until JVs are significantly reduced, and as a result, ASA(FM&C) remains committed to working with DFAS to continue to lessen related financial statement audit risk. Various initiatives have been implemented since the audit engagement to attempt to improve metric reporting and root cause monitoring. As of August 2018, Army stated that ASA(FM&C) and DFAS had retroactively began using an enhanced metric report from September 2017 to develop a baseline for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 comparisons and developed additional documentation or measures to demonstrate results. However, Army has asked GAO to wait to perform its follow-up analysis until the beginning of calendar year 2019 to include the results of the root cause analysis, which is set to be completed by the end of calendar year 2018 .
Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller should work with Defense Finance and Accounting Service to enhance the monthly JV metrics report or develop another method to sufficiently monitor the extent to which the Working Group has identified the root causes of unsupported JVs and to determine the extent to which unsupported JVs are being reduced based on the implemented corrective actions. (Recommendation 2)
Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army