Gen. William “Kip” Ward, a four-star Army general who was the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command, is under investigation and facing possible demotion for allegedly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so that his family and other unauthorized people could make trips at government expense. Even though the total amount spent has not been disclosed, it has been compared to the $823,000, allegedly spent by GSA employees at a Las Vegas resort.
Gen. Ward has been under investigation for about 17 months, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make a final decision on the matter before the end of the month. Ward is facing numerous allegations that he allowed unauthorized people to fly on government planes, and spent excessive amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is an ethical culture problem within the federal government. This culture is one permitting fraud, waste & abuse in the government. I served in all four services either as a JAG or as a fraud attorney in the Office of General Counsel, and I have seen this government pandemic grow exponentially over the last four decades. My last attorney positions were handling fraud cases for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. I was privy to many fraud cases involving federal employees.
The Bottom Line is: there are few consequences. If high ranking officers and civilians did a risk assessment, they would conclude that the benefits of committing fraud far outweigh the risks of getting caught. And even if they are caught, they probably will not be prosecuted. And even if they are prosecuted, the punishment is minimal. As you can see, they have reason to be optimistic about getting away with fraud, waste & abuse.
Many of my fraud cases against these high ranking officers and civilians were never prosecuted even though we had sufficient evidence. I was astonished at how much these officials are protected, no matter what they have done.
As long as there are insignificant prosecutions and punishments, these white-collar crimes will continue to eat into the moral fabric of our federal government until fraud, waste, and abuse will be the normal way of doing business in our government. That’s assuming that we aren’t already at that point.