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Waste of the Day: Pentagon Spent $53.2 Million In Covid-19 Funds On Paint, Wi-Fi, Gym Equipment

February 13, 2024

Topline: The Department of Defense spent $53.2 million on items including exercise machines and acrylic paint and then categorized them as expenses caused by the pandemic, according to a recent DoD Inspector General report.

Key facts: From March 2020 to January 2022, DoD staffers were allowed to make Government Purchase Card orders of up to $35,000 to “support the DoD’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.” This resulted in 110,525 purchases, totaling $242.6 million.

But auditors estimated that $53.2 million of those purchases were not even related to the pandemic.

Open the Books
Waste of the Day 2.13.24

Additionally, 52% of the purchases were not properly documented.

An estimated 45% of the erroneous purchases came from the Air Force and 36% came from the Army.

For example, one Army member spent almost $3,000 on plumbing repairs and marked the transaction in the “Covid-19” category. The official who reviewed the notes did not correct the error.

Other orders included $76 of paint for a middle school art course and 10 cybersecurity training courses costing $23,400.

The Air Force bought over $4,000 of gym equipment, including four NordicTrack skiing machines, and spent $540 on Wi-Fi services.

The Air Force was also responsible for 56% of the documentation errors, such as losing receipts and failing to ensure that purchased items were actually delivered.

The report says that the mistakes created an “increased risk that fraudulent, improper and other abusive activity could occur without detection.”

Background: Previous reporting already revealed that the Pentagon spent most of its $1 billion in Covid-19 relief funds on military equipment instead of medical items.

The Pentagon is often in the headlines for wasteful spending and inefficient internal controls that result in documentation errors. The DoD began conducting internal audits in 2018 and has failed every single one.

The Pentagon owns $3.8 trillion in assets — more than 10% of the country’s GDP — but can’t even account for half of them in financial records.

Critical quote: “Without proper oversight, the DoD faces the challenge of ensuring that [Government Purchase Card] purchases align with contingency operations, are adequately documented, and adhere to established policies,” said Inspector General Robert P. Storch. “Addressing these issues is crucial to maintaining accountability, transparency, and the effective use of taxpayer resources in the response to Covid-19 and any future pandemics.”

Summary: Poor internal controls at the Pentagon have jeopardized taxpayer money for years, and it’s now apparent that the deficiency spilled over into the DoD’s Covid-19 response.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.
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