Airmen receive allowance in error

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff

A Department of Defense audit released last month concluded 10 Cannon Air Force Base airmen received housing allowances worth approximately $79,000 in error, according to a base official.

According to a December article in Air Force Times, more than 100 airmen at multiple bases received more than $900,000 in allowances — known as basic allowance for housing — in error during the 2005 fiscal year.

Maj. Randolph Toris, commander of Cannon’s Comptroller Squadron, said an investigation into the matter cited administrative error and no criminal conduct was found.

The average amount of overpayment the 10 Cannon airman received was a little less than $8,000, he said.

The stipend is intended for airmen living off base, while living in military housing units in the 2005 fiscal year.

Overpayments are not uncommon in the military financial system, Toris said.

“These overpayments occur on occasion due to administrative errors in processing paperwork from Cannon Air Force Base to (the Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and simple human error. Given the complex nature of the military pay system, it can take some time to fix, even when the airmen come forward and bring it to the attention of the finance office,” he said.

The investigation has been concluded and in the Air Force will recoup the money from the airmen, he said, though the Defense Finance and Accounting Service has the option of writing off the losses in some cases.

The audit and a subsequent investigation found the oversight stemmed from bases not checking to verify airmen receiving the payments were living off base, the article said.

Other bases identified in the audit included Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., with 18, Minot in N.D., with 10, Eglin in Fla., with nine and Andrews in Md., with seven.

As a result, the article said the discovery has prompted the Air Force to work with a private firm to create a system that cross references the names of airmen living off base with the names of those receiving basic allowance for housing payments.

In 2005, 259,000 airmen throughout the Air Force were paid a total of $1.7 billion for housing allowances, Air Force Times said.