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HILL SPENDS `QUARTERS' UNWISELY, REPORT SAYS

The Hill Air Force Base workers who assign visitors quarters should have listened to the old military lyrics, "This is the Army Mr. Jones - no private baths or telephones."

Instead, they sidestepped rules a bit to help visitors have private baths by keeping vacant some adjacent rooms or beds. Consequently, not enough rooms were available for all visitors on base.So Hill sent them to hotels and motels off base, which the Air Force Audit Agency complains wasted $6,075 in taxpayer money in three months last year.

On top of that, auditors complain that distinguished visitors lodging was also often left vacant - just in case VIPs arrived - while other personnel were sent to costly off-base lodging. They also said the base improperly allowed some motels to charge more than contracts with them allowed.

That's according to an audit report obtained by the Deseret News through the Freedom of Information Act.

Auditors said Hill workers were simply too accommodating with their accommodations. "Billeting personnel were trying to please the customer and make them as comfortable as possible," the report said.

To explain, many of the base's quarters for visiting officers require them to share bathrooms. And some quarters for visiting enlisted personnel force them to share a room with two beds.

But auditors said Hill was keeping vacant some such rooms and beds for "temporary duty personnel who did not want to share baths, family members accompanying official temporary duty personnel, and (other enlisted) personnel who did not want to share a room with another individual."

Also, the base did not force "priority two" people - visitors not on official temporary duty, or family members traveling with temporary duty personnel - to vacate within a day of notice (as rules require) if "priority one" personnel needed the rooms.

Auditors said that cost $6,075 unnecessarily in three months - and recommended that such practices cease. Hill agreed to stop them.

Auditors also complained that distinguished visitors quarters were left vacant about a third of the time - in case VIPs were to arrive unexpectedly - and other visiting personnel were sent off-base at the same time to more expensive motels and hotels.

Or they said the quarters often were used for people who were not on official temporary duty, while temporary duty people were sent off base.

Auditors said such improper use of the eight distinguished visitor suites cost an extra $1,975 over six months. It recommended that protocol personnel release unused distinguished visitor suites by 4 p.m. each day for possible use by others.

Auditors also complained the base was misusing its computer reservation system. It is designed to take reservations by blocking a space in a selected room type, then assigning a specific room when the guest registers.

But billeting personnel often tried to reserve specific rooms instead - and often did not remove the reservations when the guest checked out early. That meant rooms that were actually vacant appeared to be occupied, and other visitors were sent off base.

Hill agreed to make changes to ensure the system is used properly.

Auditors also complained that a review of contracts with three off-base motels show they were actually charging "$3 to $8 per room higher than the price stated on the contract."

They said that happened because "billeting personnel incorrectly assumed they could act as an Air Force agent accepting rate increases without going through the administrative contracting officer."