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Watchdog: High Risk of Improper Payments with State Dept. Purchase Cards

In 2018, more than 2,250 department card holders made purchases totaling $109.5 million.

There is a high risk of improper or illegal payments from government credit cards at the State Department, according to a watchdog.

Based on a review of fiscal 2018, the department’s inspector general reported on Dec. 17 that the risk of purchase card abuse is high because over $10 million of taxpayer money and more than 500 employee cardholders could be affected. Specifically, 2,251 department purchase cardholders made purchases in 2018 totaling approximately $109.5 million. 

The report also found that while State officials gave cardholders sufficient training on card use and the internal controls for compliance were “generally adequate,” the department didn’t submit complete information on card violations to the inspector general and issues with cards “stemmed from a lack of oversight due to inadequate program staffing and cardholders not knowing or understanding department policy.”

Despite the issues with the card program, the inspector general did not include recommendations in its work plan for fiscal 2021 to 2022 because the “department is currently taking action to rectify the deficiencies reported” in a previous March audit. In that report, the inspector general made recommendations on how State can improve its internal compliance controls and clarify guidance on card use.

The inspector general “encourages the department’s purchase card manager to fully implement the recommendations...and continue prudent oversight of the purchase card program to ensure internal controls intended to safeguard taxpayer funds are implemented and followed by department purchase cardholders.” 

The inspector general conducted the risk assessment from October to December by reviewing purchase card data, previous audits, compliance documents and other information from State.