Turning the page in financial improvement

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Oct. 1 marked not only the beginning of a new fiscal year but also the start of a new chapter in Air Force Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness that has been ten years in the making.

The Air Force declared audit readiness July 8, meaning a component of the Air Force’s financial statements will be audit ready. There are identified deficiencies being remediated with corrective actions; however, those actions will enable the Air Force to track every financial transaction from receiving appropriated funds to the bombs and bullets purchased with those funds.

“Audit readiness is the ability to track every dollar we receive and document how it was used,” said Steve Herrera, the Air Force director of financial operations. “In a service the size of ours, with a budget the size of ours, this is incredibly difficult. It has taken a lot of work to get here, and it will continue to take a lot of work from all Airmen to maintain.”

So far, the path to audit readiness has mostly been paved by Airmen within the financial management, logistics, contracting and personnel communities who will continue to carry the majority of the workload. The Airmen have improved Air Force compliance as they endeavor to meet the requirements to document every transaction, whether at the wing or headquarters level.

“We’ve asked for a lot from our Airmen, and they’ve exceeded our expectations,” said the Lisa S. Disbrow, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller. “What they’ve accomplished gives us the ability to not only prove to Congress that we are responsible stewards of the funds they give us, it also gives us data we can use to ensure we are making every dollar count and look for new ways of saving money.”

Independent auditors will begin the planning phase of the Schedule of Budgetary Activity audit in December 2014, which will include gaining an understanding of Air Force business processes and internal controls. The planning phase will be followed by an examination phase, where the independent auditors inspect the Air Force’s financial records. The audit will affect Airmen working in financial management, as well as other functional areas such as personnel, contracting and supply. Airmen will be tasked to demonstrate their processes for initiating, tracking and spending funds to the auditors.

“Every Airman has a role to play in audit readiness, as many of our Airmen realized when we asked them to validate their dependents to support basic allowance for housing payments,” Herrera said. “The SBA audit is extensive; it will affect Airmen across the Air Force next year when records from pay to travel vouchers are examined.”

Although the first SBA audit will begin in fiscal year 2015 and end in the beginning of fiscal 2016, audits of Air Force financial statements will continue every fiscal year and Airmen will be critical to implementing corrective actions to refine business processes and control activities.

“At the end of this SBA audit, we will learn a lot about how we can improve and sustain our processes, apply corrective actions to maximize every dollar and demonstrate good stewardship by fully accounting for every dollar received,” Disbrow said.

(Information courtesy of the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office)