In yet another scandal involving lavish (and unauthorized) use of taxpayer dollars, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has taken action against General William Ward, demoting him to the rank
of three-star lieutenant general. Following a 17-month investigation, the former head of U.S. Africa Command was found to have spent thousands on unauthorized charges while stationed overseas. Yes, yet another example of poor financial management to add to a list that has become discouragingly long.
The disputed charges included costs associated with transporting and lodging the general’s wife during various trips and shopping excursions, rooms booked at expensive hotels (including a $750 suite during a refueling layover in Bermuda), stays extended for personal reasons, and unnecessary use of motorcades during trips to Washington. Beyond the reckless spending, the general also accepted free dinners, Broadway tickets and other gifts deemed to be inappropriate. CBS News’ article revealed more about the seriousness of the charges, stating, “A common theme running through the report was Ward’s insistence that his wife travel with him at government cost, even though it was often not authorized and she performed few official duties. It said he also routinely stayed in high-priced suites in luxury hotels rather than in standard rooms or less expensive locales.”
As more effort has been made to shed light on the lack of transparency and oversight that permeates the federal government, from its top officials to its agencies, the consistent problems with expense management prompts plenty of questions, especially with the Obama Administration’s push toward a cloud-first policy. Financial software, when accompanied by a strongly-enforced spend policy, helps prevent much of the rogue spending that has plagued the government, whether through extensive auditing and reporting, red-flagging non-compliant transactions or by providing an indisputable expense trail. Accountability is the key to preventing instances such as the one involving now-Lieutenant-General Ward, and would go a long way in restoring the American peoples’ faith in how their government is using their money. Let’s hope that cloud-first initiative leads to better financial management in the near future.
Beyond the demotion, General Ward has also been instructed to repay the U.S. government a fine totaling $82,000.