The Pentagon blew through nearly half a billion dollars in improper travel payments to troops without expense receipts, according to a new inspector general report.
Investigators found that despite the Pentagon’s efforts to align itself with a 2010 law designed specifically to reduce improper reimbursements, these improper payments actually increased from 5 percent in 2012 to 7 percent in 2014.
In 2014, these payments totaled exactly $458 million from routine expenses like hotels, rental cars and flight costs. The only problem is that servicemembers often didn’t submit any receipts. DOD staff managing the Travel Pay program approved the expenses, anyway.
Out of 5,000 random travel vouchers surveyed for 2014, investigators discovered that all of them had a minimum of one error.
No one has any idea what the root causes of the problem are. A 2013 effort to reform the payments system only included training for new travelers using the program.
“Without identifying the reasons that authorizing officials approve improper vouchers for payment, DoD will continue to be at high risk for making improper payments for travel,” the report stated.
“Although training may be part of the solution, other forms of command emphasis may be necessary to ensure compliance with travel regulations,” the report added. “In addition, oversight of corrective actions may be necessary at the DoD component level, where the payments are authorized.”
The DOD pledged to ask the services why improper payments were still being made, and given the damning nature of the investigation, the Defense Financing and Accounting Service will now have to produce quarterly reports clearly examining all the errors committed on travel vouchers.
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