Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Oh, the waste

100 million dollars over six years. There is a saying, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, in this case, I think both hands were stuck up someones backside.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Department spent an estimated $100 million for airline tickets that were not used over a six-year period and failed to seek refunds even though the tickets were reimbursable, congressional investigators say.

The department compounded the problem by reimbursing employee claims for tickets bought by the Pentagon, the investigators said.

To demonstrate how easy it was to have the Pentagon pay for airline travel, the investigators posed as Defense employees, had the department generate a ticket and showed up at the ticket counter to pick up a boarding pass.

Congress' General Accounting Office issued the findings in two reports on the Pentagon's lack of control over airline travel, copies of which The Associated Press obtained Tuesday. A prior report, issued last November, found that the Pentagon bought 68,000 first-class or business-class airline seats for employees who should have flown coach.

"At a time when our soldiers are patrolling the streets of Iraq in unarmored Humvees, and when the Bush Administration is asking for record Defense spending, Secretary (Donald H.) Rumsfeld is letting hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to protect our troops and our country go to waste," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, one of three lawmakers who ordered the studies.

The GAO estimated that between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department bought at least $100 million in tickets that were not used or used only partially by a passenger who did not complete all legs of a flight. The waste went undetected because the department relied on individuals to report the unused tickets. They did not do so.

The Defense Department said in a written statement that it is working to ensure it receives credit in the future for each unused ticket.

"We take this deficiency in our procedures very seriously and are moving swiftly to establish proper management controls. The long-term answer will be the automated Defense Travel System (DTS) that controls the travel order and payment process from beginning to end," the statement said.

"DOD is researching the data presented in the GAO report and will continue to pursue the amounts we determine are recoupable."