In response to recent reports about federal employees misusing government charge cards, four senators on Friday introduced a bill to improve detection and prevention of such waste by tapping data analysis at the General Services Administration.
The Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards act would create an Office of Federal Charge Card Analytics and Review within GSA to continuously examine charge card purchases across the government. It also would seek to improve “anti-fraud information sharing” and encourage the strategic sourcing being pushed by the Obama administration, the lawmakers said.
The bill was introduced by Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Tom Carper, D-Del., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., all of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and by Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
“This bill builds on my Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 by adding an additional layer of governmentwide oversight to the work of individual agency inspectors general,” Grassley said. “The recent Defense Department inspector general report, which was drafted in response to the 2012 law, highlighted some areas where the Defense Department was not properly implementing the required controls and flagged casinos as a high risk for misuse of charge cards.
Carper, the ranking member on Governmental Affairs, said: “Congress has a moral obligation to look into every nook and cranny of government spending and ensure our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly and effectively. While federal agencies have made real progress in strengthening financial controls and preventing wasteful charge card spending, recent reports revealed that we can and should implement stronger and smarter steps to get better results in these efforts,” he added.
“The federal government collects huge amounts of data involving the flow of dollars, then rarely looks at it for obvious red flags and opportunities to save money,” Johnson said. “Instructing the GSA to use better techniques to find waste and fraud in the billions of dollars of credit card transactions by federal bureaucrats is a small but important step in improving Washington’s stewardship of taxpayers’ money.”
McCaskill said her hope is that “if federal agencies are all using the best tools available to safeguard taxpayer dollars, the public can rest a little easier and have a little more faith in government.”
The National Treasury Employees Union has not taken a position on the bill, but officials noted that charge cards are issued in the names of individual employees, who are responsible for paying the bills.
“The employee submits a re-imbursement voucher to the agency and the agency makes the determination whether to approve the expense. Therefore, efforts directed at overseeing agency reimbursement rules and practices would likely be more effective, said NTEU National President Colleen Kelley. “Given that federal employees have a wide set of experiences and knowledge in this area, employee representatives should be made part of any Interagency Task Force [created by] the bill,” she said.
This story was updated with comments from NTEU.