USPS Employees Used Travel Cards for Grocery Shopping, Eating Out

Better oversight of employees’ use of the cards can reduce bad publicity, report says.

U.S. Postal Service employees spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years on unauthorized cash withdrawals and personal purchases using government travel cards, according to a new report.

USPS’ inspector general found a lack of oversight allowed employees to take between April 2012 and March 2013 more than $215,000 in cash advances with agency credit cards that “potentially did not comply with Postal Service travel policy.” The advances were unrelated to official travel, exceeded the amount USPS allows or occurred too early for travel.

The IG also examined a sample of 486 purchase transactions using USPS travel cards -- out of a total of 180,000 -- in the same period. The majority of those transactions were not used for official travel, as Postal Service policy requires. Employees in the IG’s subset charged $4,000 worth of groceries and spent nearly $5,000 eating out at restaurants while not on official travel.

USPS employees with travel cards receive them in their own names and are responsible for paying the bills themselves. Still, the inspector general said increased oversight is critical.

“Although individual employee cardholders are responsible for repayment of all cash advances and payment for all items purchased with their travel cards,” the IG wrote, “effective monitoring of travel card transactions reduces the risk of credit card delinquencies or negative publicity when employees misuse their travel cards.”

The Postal Service has already taken steps to better monitor travel card usage, including limiting the ability to take cash advances for many employees. Agency management agreed with the IG that it should develop procedures for travel card coordinators to improve oversight.

In March, reports surfaced that USPS employees used their agency travel cards for gambling and bowling