Credit card abuse details widen

Purchase Cards: Control Weaknesses Leave Army Vulnerable to Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

The latest in a series of hearings looking at waste, fraud and abuse of government-issued credit cards described Army personnel who used the cards to pay for cruises, gamble online and get cash for use at strip clubs.

"The General Accounting Office has found everything but the kitchen sink. And now we found that, too," Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said. "We have found government employees using their cards to make mortgage payments and pay closing costs, to buy cars, an engagement ring, racetrack betting, Elvis photos from Graceland, a framed John Elway jersey, a trip to the Rose Bowl game, and even Caribbean cruises. You name it. They're doing it," Grassley said in his testimony.

The July 18 hearing by the House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee focused on the Army and was the latest in a series of audits looking at the Defense Department's weak management of the credit cards.

And lawmakers were clearly tired of hearing about problems.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), the subcommittee chairman, noted that the previous hearings examined problems at two Navy facilities. "At the time, we did not know whether these abuses were unique to these two facilities or whether they were symbolic of a much broader problem." But given the findings, he said that the problem is pervasive.

"The purchase card program may have been a promising idea when it was devised, but the management at the Defense Department has turned it upside down," said Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the committee's ranking member. "A program that was designed to streamline bureaucracy has, instead, made it easier for an employee to buy personal items -- and on the federal government's tab."

DOD has been working to improve management of the program by slashing the number of cards issued across the department and reducing the number of cards that supervisors can oversee at one time so they can keep better tabs on purchases, said Deidre Lee, director of Defense procurement.

The overall scope of the problem is unclear, GAO said, because DOD does not maintain information on fraud cases.

Horn promised still more hearings on the issue before he leaves office at the end of this term.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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