Friday was a great day for justice. A corrupt mayor, who had been getting public money from the city he was suppose to work for, got busted. According to the ABC News:
“Federal prosecutors today announced a 21-count indictment against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, accused of enriching himself as the city struggled to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nagin is accused of using the office of mayor to steer city projects to business associates who, in turn, allegedly paid kickbacks and bribes and flew him on lavish free trips to Hawaii, Jamaica, and Las Vegas. Nagin was charged with bribery, honest service wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and filing false tax returns.”
So does this teach us that crime doesn’t pay? Close. It teaches you that crime doesn’t pay if you are a mere local politician. But if you are the Pentagon, the rules are entirely different.
“The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that it could not complete an audit of the federal government, pointing to serious problems with the Department of Defense… ‘The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2012 consolidated financial statements of the federal government because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations,” the agency said. ‘As was the case in 2011, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable. The federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies. The federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.’”
Now, I’ll grant, this report doesn’t a list of people who lined their pockets. But don’t be fooled. The fact that the books can’t be reconciled is because money went into secret places. This wasn’t lost in the couch; it lined someone’s pockets. For two years in a row now, the military has not been able to present financial statements that can be audited.
Let’s remember, this goes way back. The day before 9-11-2001, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Defense budget had lost $2.3 trillion. He called it “a matter of life and death,” but no one saw it that way the next day. The problem seemed to only get worse through the following years.
Furthermore, now it is not just the Pentagon. The Department of Homeland Security is copying the Pentagon’s procedure:
“Along with the Pentagon, the GAO cited the Department of Homeland Security as having problems so significant that it was impossible for investigators to audit it. The DHS got a qualified audit for fiscal year 2012, and is seeking an unqualified audit for 2013. The report released by the GAO on Friday indicates serious accounting problems at two of the largest government agencies: the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Defense has a net cost of $799.1 billion to the federal budget, while the Department of Homeland Security has a net cost of $48.7 billion.”
So, when you see small politicians prosecuted by a Federal Agency, you can be happy that they didn’t get away with it. But you can also be pretty sure that some much bigger crime is being overlooked.
Once you get higher up the Federal food chain, the crooks are too big to jail.