WASHINGTON — The Air Force continues to make major strides toward becoming audit ready by Sept. 30, 2014.
The Air Force Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness team took a key step in the Air Force strategy to meet imminent deadlines.
FIAR team members are now visiting various Air Force units to review key financial processes. Processes under review include military pay activities that touch every Airmen as well as important but more obscure financial transactions such as how the Air Force collects reimbursements from the other services and outside organizations.
Following these visits, the team will assess current audit readiness and begin implementing any necessary corrective actions. While Air Force financial managers believe they have made significant progress since the 2014 deadline was established by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in 2011, there is much to be accomplished in the next twelve months.
The audit readiness team includes government employees from throughout the Air Force as well as support from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has experience auditing many large commercial and government organizations, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Ford, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Marine Corps.
According to Douglas Bennett, the principal deputy assistant secretary for financial operations, being audit ready isn’t just a numbers game; it’s bigger than that.
“As we have a responsibility to defend the American public, we also have a responsibility to be the best stewards of their funds we possibly can,” he said. “If we can’t pass an audit test, it will be hard to keep their trust and confidence.”
The actions Air Force officials are taking to achieve a clean audit opinion will also enhance the accuracy and timeliness of commanders’ financial information, allowing leadership to direct resources to pressing needs such as operations, training and maintenance.
A 2008 study by the Marine Corps found every dollar invested in audit readiness created $2.77 in value.
Keeping with the Air Force’s long-term goal of standardized, transparent business processes, the FIAR effort will help the service be better stewards of the dollars entrusted to them, said a key service official.
“Our FIAR team is documenting and testing our current processes,” said Stephen Herrera, the associate deputy assistant secretary for financial operations. “These processes include military pay, contractor pay and travel pay as well as our controls for reporting assets such as munitions inventory and even the buildings and hangars our Airmen work in every day.”
As time passes, he said improvements are being made and ideas are becoming reality.
“As we work towards our September 30, 2014, goal of having our initial financial schedules ready to withstand audit scrutiny, we are aggressively working to verify and validate that we’re ready,” Herrera said. “In several cases we’ve already done the ground work, reviewed our processes, taken necessary corrective actions and have essentially asserted to (Office of the Secretary of Defense) that we’re ready.”
Two examples Herrera gave are the examinations of the civilian pay and funds allocation processes.
“We recently asserted that our civilian pay process and our funds allocation process are ready for audit validation,” he said. “This resulted in OSD hiring an accounting firm to perform an end-to-end examination of those processes to validate that our internal controls are sound and that the related financial data is accurate. Personnel from my staff are supporting this examination and are visiting various Air Force organizations to review the respective processes, system controls and individual transactions.”