The Defense Commissary Agency has been delivering the benefit to U.S. military members and their families for the past 16 years. And, for the past six, DeCA has done so while also managing to prove that it is among DoD’s best in accounting for its budget.
Independent auditors have once again given DeCA’s financial statements an unqualified opinion for fiscal 2007. In financial reporting, this means that the commissary agency has done a superior job at following and accounting for its money: more than $5 billion in annual sales and another $1 billion received in federal funding. Balancing this “checkbook” means a lot more when the funds belong to the American taxpayer, said Rick Page, DeCA acting director.
“By continually achieving clean audit opinions, we prove that we are responsible caretakers of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Page said. “This means the public can trust us in delivering the commissary benefit in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”
DeCA joins three other DoD agencies that have received six consecutive unqualified or “clean” opinions: the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Military Retirement Trust Fund and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. The DoD Inspector General also achieved an unqualified opinion for fiscal 2007.
Since receiving its first unqualified opinion in 2002, DeCA has turned financial reporting into a team effort. It all starts with agency accountants pulling all the information together during each quarterly reporting period and all levels of management supporting an atmosphere of open financial reporting, said Pam Conklin, DeCA’s chief financial executive.
“Our accountants are a group of talented and dedicated professionals who take pride in this agency setting its best financial foot forward,” Conklin said. “However, this achievement could not happen without all of DeCA’s team members working together to ensure that the agency's financial books are in order.”
During its annual evaluation, DeCA’s internal controls and financial statements are put under a microscope by auditors from KPMG, an international auditing firm. They look for efficiency and accuracy in reports dealing with areas such as time and attendance, annual inventories of resale stocks, equipment inventories, property accountability, and information technology controls over financial systems at various locations including commissaries, regional offices and DeCA headquarters, as well as outside organizations, such as its financial links to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service-Columbus. An evaluation can range from no opinion to an adverse opinion to the best possible ruling, an unqualified opinion.
For fiscal 2007, the standards for determining an audit opinion were raised, said Carol Burroughs, chief of the accounting compliance and reporting division. “For DeCA, it meant that a minor finding that was previously only included as a ‘management letter comment’ could now be reported as a significant deficiency, or, worse, a material weakness – both of which could have jeopardized DeCA’s clean opinion. It took just that much more effort from the agency in fiscal 2007 to yet again obtain an unqualified opinion.”
The journey toward the next clean audit opinion in fiscal 2008 will have to account for new review areas such as the agency’s new store front-end system, the Commissary Advanced Resale Transaction System, known as CARTS, and the next phase of DeCA’s online shopping initiative, Virtual Commissary.
"Each year, the standards and requirements placed upon the agency become more and more stringent, but we welcome the challenge,” said Larry Bands, chief of DeCA’s accounting directorate. “With each additional challenge, we strengthen our internal controls, improve our reporting methods and continue to foster an environment of open communication.”