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Watchdog Finds Flaws In Just 0.01% of IRS Purchase Card Transactions

The few violations that did occur over a recent six-month period included hand sanitizer and wipes.  

Out of the $6.8 million Internal Revenue Service employees spent on government purchase cards over a six-month period starting last October, only $850 was identified as a misuse of taxpayer funds, a watchdog found in a recent semi-annual review. 

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found in a report on employee purchase card violations last week that between Oct. 1, 2018 and March 31, IRS employees with work-issued credit cards were generally compliant with the law. There were only 10 instances of misuse, which equated to 0.01% of total expenditures. 

The inspector general studied the financial transactions for the 2,227 cardholders, who made a total of 16,399 purchases, totaling almost $6.8 million. There were also 33 checks, adding up to over $18,000.  

In all cases where misuse was uncovered, cardholders received non-disciplinary actions in the form of written counseling, oral counseling, a cautionary letter or nothing at all. The flawed purchases were mainly for items that could be mistaken for business supplies, such as hand-sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. So far the employees involved reimbursed the government for the improper purchases in three of seven cases, which is required by the Office of Management and Budget policy. 

There is one more misuse investigation from this time frame that is ongoing. Additionally, there were 35 transactions adding up to a little over $42,000 that did not comply with Office of Management and Budget guidance; however, they were exceptions to the regulations because of internal or administrative inconsistencies, the IG said. In 28 of these 35 transactions, the purchases were for “valid business needs,” yet the cardholder didn’t have the authority to buy them. Examples of these items included HDMI cables and keypads. 

The 2012 Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act mandates that agencies with purchase card charges of more than $10 million in the prior fiscal year report semi-annually employee violations and how they have been handled. The IRS’ Credit Card Service Branch, with the Office of Procurement, is responsible for the management and oversight of the purchase card program. When a case of misuse is identified, the branch refers it to the Labor and Employee Relations Office. This office looks into the case and determines if disciplinary actions are needed. “According to IRS policy, use of the penalty guide is not mandatory, and the ultimate decision lies with management,” the report said. 

Key IRS officials reviewed the report prior to publication and they agreed with the conclusions. The inspector general did not make any recommendations as a result of the findings.