Bennet To DHS: Protect Taxpayer Dollars or Lose Funding

Recent IG Audit Found Serious Weaknesses In How DHS Accounts for Taxpayer Funds - Leads to Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Senate Passes Bennet Amendment Requiring DHS to Address the Recommendations in Audit or Lose Increased Funding for FY 2010

Move Comes on the Heels of Vote to Cut Wasteful Government Spending

Washington, DC - Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today announced Senate passage of his amendment that requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop an aggressive plan to implement the recommendations of a recent audit that found serious weaknesses in how DHS accounts for taxpayer funds or lose increased funding from the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

"For far too long DHS has been riddled with management, accounting and oversight problems that do nothing but subject our taxpayer dollars to waste, fraud and abuse. This must end," Bennet said. "This amendment will make sure that taxpayer dollars are put to good use by holding DHS accountable for how it manages its finances."

A May 2009 Inspector General audit found serious weaknesses in the way that the Department of Homeland Security accounts for taxpayer funds.

The audit concluded, among other findings, that:

  • "For the fifth year, the DHS' independent auditors were unable to render an opinion on the Department's balance sheets." It also noted that "DHS continues to be unable to represent that certain financial balances were correct, and was unable to provide sufficient evidence to support its financial statements . . . "
  • At the Coast Guard, the audit identified "pervasive weaknesses" in its financial controls.
  • At FEMA, the audit "resulted in four findings indicating weaknesses affecting line items on [the agency's statement of budgetary resources]." According to the audit, these weaknesses at FEMA and others, "may have the potential to interfere with DHS management's ability to provide a representation that budgetary accounts . . . are fairly stated in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles . . ."
  • At the TSA certain financial information "might be misstated due to internal control deficiencies related to improper contract management and inconsistent application of established procedures."

In response, the Bennet amendment requires DHS to submit an aggressive plan describing how it intends to address these failures. If DHS doesn't submit its plan by January 4, 2010, the Chief Financial Officer-the office tasked with financial oversight-will lose $5 million, which represents the bulk of the office's funding increase for the next year.

The Senate approved the amendment by unanimous consent late last night. The Senate then approved the Homeland Security Appropriations bill by 84-6.

Bennet's amendment comes on the heels of his opposition to a $3.1 billion Legislative Branch appropriations bill that increased funding for Senate offices, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and other government agencies by 3.3 percent at a time when the country is in a deep fiscal crisis.