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Asif Khan, Director of the Financial Management and Assurance Team at GAO, discusses progress made on the Pentagon audit

The Pentagon hasn’t gotten a clean audit yet in its third time through, but it has made improvements. The Pentagon’s top financial leader Thomas Harker says DoD might not get a totally clean audit until 2027.

“I think it’s very important for people to realize that this is probably the largest audit in the world,” Asif Khan, Director of the Financial Management and Assurance Team at GAO, told “Government Matters” Monday. “DoD is a huge organization; the agency-wide audit comprises of 25 stand-alone audits.”

DoD did not receive an opinion this year but a disclaimer of opinion, the same as the prior three years. Some individual agencies received disclaimers of opinion because the auditors were not able to get sufficient, reliable evidence to base their opinion on, according to Khan.

However, one good thing is that there were six smaller components that were able to get an opinion this year. These are agencies that didn’t receive one in FY19.

According to Harker, auditors were able to go to 600 locations last year to perform work but were only able to go to about 100 this year due to the coronavirus. There is only so much auditors can do without being on site, said Khan. “Having said that, the auditors were able to do a lot more work than would have expected despite the shutdown itself.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the remediation activity, however. Khan said the Defense Department was able to remediate about 26% of the audit findings from the FY18 and FY19 audits, but the work that is still ongoing this year may not be up to that percentage.

Khan said it is not unreasonable that it could take until 2027 for DoD to reach a clean audit opinion department-wide. “It’s worth remembering going back when DoD first started on doing these audits in 2018 … they were very clear that this was going to be a long-term endeavor,” he said. “The main intention at this point in time is not to be able to obtain an opinion, but use these audits to receive actionable feedback.”

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