GAO finds more purchase card woes

"Purchase Cards: Control Weaknesses Leave the Air Force Vulnerableto Fraud, Waste, and Abuse"

The General Accounting Office released two reports Dec. 20 examining the government's travel and purchase card programs for the Air Force.

GAO stated that although the Air Force's delinquency rate was the lowest among the military services, it was higher than at other federal agencies, and some expenses were well out of the realm of authorized purchases.

GAO examined purchase and travel card programs at five Air Force bases — Nellis in Nevada, Hill in Utah, Travis and Edwards in California, and Lackland in Texas. It found that low- and mid-level enlisted personnel, from airmen to technical sergeants, accounted for a high percentage of the delinquencies. It also said that Bank of America Corp., which issues the cards, has charged off more than $12 million in bad debts related to Air Force accounts.

The report found that abuse of the cards was "substantial" and included purchases of cruises, casino and Internet gambling, tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys and music concerts, and 187 transactions at strip clubs and several more at Nevada brothels.

John Gilligan, chief information officer of the Air Force, addressed the issue at an AFCEA International breakfast in Bethesda earlier this month and said the problem was that too many cards had been issued to the wrong people, and more oversight is needed before issuing the cards to servicemen and women who have no need for them.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, said he has been "appalled and amazed at the arrogant and egregious abuse of these programs."

"Instead of saving money, we have found government employees who are treating these cards as personal credit cards, collectively costing the government millions of dollars," Horn said in a statement. "Taxpayers deserve to know that our military services are using the tax money they provide for its intended purposes, especially in times such as these when demands are so great and the resources so limited."

GAO is continuing to investigate the card programs in all of the services.

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