Senate unanimously passes bill to scrutinize purchase card spending

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday aimed at eliminating wasteful spending by the use of government purchase cards. The bill's sponsor said waste can occur when the government does not understand how purchase cards are used.

The Purchase Card Waste Elimination Act (S. 457) was passed by unanimous consent. The House has yet to act on the measure.

“The American people have the right to expect the federal government to spend their tax dollars carefully and wisely,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the bill’s sponsor.

Purchase cards are credit cards given to federal employees so they can buy goods and services for the government. Lawmakers believe billions of dollars are spent using purchase cards annually, but little analysis is done on the items that are bought as a way of getting the government a better price, according to a press release.

Under the legislation, the Office of Management and Budget would direct agencies to do a better job of training their cardholders and analyzing the spending data. It would also direct the General Services Administration to increase efforts to secure discounts from vendors and provide agencies with more guidance to reduce wasteful spending.

The bill would require OMB to report annually to Congress on the progress in improving the management of the purchase card and achieving certain savings in micropurchases.

Moreover, it would require reports from GSA on all first-class and business-class travel by agency employees taken at federal expense.

“The abuses of the government credit card program, including the purchase of designer luggage, surgical enhancements, two cars and a motorbike, need to be stopped,” Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said.

Collins also said the guidance would give the government important information on trends and habits about purchase card usage.

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