Bill would put more eyes on purchase cards

Federal employees who use government purchase cards could have more eyes watching them.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill Aug. 1 that would have agency inspectors general performing more audits and risk assessments on the government purchase and travel cards that agencies have given some federal employees.

Under the Government Credit Card Abuse Prevention Act (S. 789), the IGs would have to regularly report to the Office of Management and Budget about violations and punishments, as well as agency trends that might lead to improper behaviors. They would also suggest other ways of aggregating an agency’s spending, according to the bill.

Concerning travel cards, the bill would require department officials to check the credit history of an employee who has applied for a card and compare it with a minimum credit score set by OMB.

The measure also would require agencies to have records about which employees have purchase and travel cards along with as specific information about each card's purchasing and credit limits.

“Every time we open these Government Accountability Office reports [about purchase cards] we find more outrageous spending. Internet gambling and a Yankees baseball game don’t seem to be appropriate uses of taxpayer money,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said in 2007 when he introduced the bill.

The purchase card program has grown from its inception in 1994 to processing almost $18 billion last year, and the Senate committee has found serious deficiencies in controls on purchase cards across the government, according to a report issued in 2007.

Agencies have made greater use of government purchase cards for smaller  purchases. However, the committee wrote that many people in the acquisition workforce were not prepared for these changes. A lack of training in these new ways of buying, coupled with poor internal controls, has contributed to fraud, waste and abuse, the committee wrote.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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