Saturday, May 15, 2004
NASA's Finances in Disarray; Auditor Leaves
Yahoo! News:
PriceWaterhouseCoopers and NASA parted ways earlier this year, according to the space agency's inspector general, Robert Cobb. PriceWaterhouseCoopers declined to comment, but a source familiar with the situation said the audit firm opted out of the contract because it was unhappy with the relationship.

In a scathing report on NASA's Sept. 30, 2003, financial statement -- which got scant attention at its release but was detailed in a cover story in the May issue of CFO Magazine -- the audit firm accused the space agency of one of the cardinal sins of the accounting world: failing to record its own costs properly.

The same report said the transition to the new accounting program triggered a series of blunders that made completing the NASA audit impossible.

There were hundreds of millions of dollars of "unreconciled" funds and a $2 billion difference between what NASA said it had and what was actually in its accounts, which are held by the Treasury Department (news - web sites), PriceWaterhouseCoopers said in its report. .......

"......The independent investigation of the Columbia accident, in which seven astronauts died, found NASA's culture at fault. The same spirit that fueled the early boom in space exploration in the 1950s evolved into separate parts of a sprawling agency working independently rather than cooperatively.

The same independent path extends to NASA's financial accounting, Cobb said.

'You've got an environment at the agency where there are these 10 centers which pride themselves on their independence ... and it becomes very difficult in connection with any of NASA's functional management responsibilities to have people kowtow to the folks at (NASA) headquarters who have the responsibility to pull it all together,' Cobb said.

Cinager said he was hopeful that NASA's culture would change, noting a new 'willingness of all of the constituencies in the agency to introspectively look at how can they improve the way they are doing their specific duties.'

But Shyam Sundar, a professor in accounting with Yale School of Management, described the event as 'a big mess,' after seeing the auditor's report.

'If NASA would have been a public company, the management would have been fired by now,' he said."

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