Senate Passes Measure to Crack Down on Feds’ Charge Card Abuse
GSA would monitor all charge card purchases.
The Senate this week voted to tighten controls and increase oversight of federal employees’ use of agency charge cards, taking action after a string of recent reports of abuse.
The 2015 Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., would require agencies to boost the use of data analytics and strategic sourcing to limit improper purchases by federal workers with their government cards. The bill would also force agencies to work together to share information on questionable transactions and create an “interagency charge card data management group” to develop best practices on limiting them.
“This common sense legislation would implement stronger and smarter controls to prevent potential abuse and misuse of government charge cards,” Carper said. “While federal agencies have made progress in strengthening financial controls over government travel and purchase cards, more needs to be done to eliminate wasteful charge card spending.”
The bill marks at least the fourth effort taken since President Obama was sworn into office to increase oversight of the government charge card program. In 2009, the Office of Management and Budget issued a circular to mark certain improvements made to the procedures governing the program. In 2012, Congress approved the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act, and in 2014 Obama signed an executive order to boost security of charge card operations.
Still, lawmakers such as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who cosponsored Carper’s bill and authored the 2012 measure, said the “added layer of governmentwide oversight” was necessary.
The bill, Grassley said, “will make sure we’re looking for similar patterns of misuse across all federal agencies and that agencies are sharing best practices to prevent misuse and identify potential cost savings.”
The legislation, which now heads to the House, would task the General Services Administration with “continuously” examining all charge card purchases across the government to root out waste and abuse. An earlier draft of the bill would have created the Office of Federal Charge Card Analytics and Review housed within GSA, but that provision was dropped from the final language. A report from the Congressional Budget Office found that original version of the bill would have cost $65 million over five years. CBO also said the efforts “could result in savings,” but the non-partisan group had “no basis” for making such an estimate.
In May, Defense Department employees were found to use their government cards to make more than $1 million in purchases at casinos and to pay escorts. Other recent examples of government charge card abuses include U.S. Postal Service employees who went gambling and bowling on their government cards, and Forest Service workers who used their cards for personal trips to gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores.
(Image via isak55 / Shutterstock.com)