Every year, the government loses millions of dollars to fraudulent charges on government-issued credit cards—with some federal workers caught buying BMWs and home theaters or going on smaller personal shopping trips at grocery stores and other retail shops.
Despite attempts by lawmakers and the Obama administration to rein in the abuse, the problem continues to plague agencies across the federal government.
A forthcoming audit by the Defense Department’s Inspector General reveals that Pentagon employees used their agency-issued charge cards for personal entertainment at casinos—and escort services in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Politico first reported.
The report, expected to be released later this month, was highlighted in the IG’s newsletter, published on Wednesday. The IG said the investigation centers around the misuse of charge cards by DOD employees at casinos and adult entertainment establishments.
However, Pentagon officials seem to be pushing back on the IG report, telling Politico that the findings don’t necessarily mean that the government footed the bill since employees must submit receipts for reimbursements.
The Pentagon did not address whether the employees sought reimbursement for the improper charges.
Regardless, the report still highlights the government’s ongoing problem trying to prevent waste and fraud within its government charge-card program. The cards are supposed to help streamline the federal procurement process, so employees are able to quickly purchase things. However, without proper supervision over how the cards are being used, millions of dollars are lost to improper or inappropriate purchases.
It’s not just DOD. The issue is prevalent across the federal government. The IG for the Veterans Affairs Department reported last year that VA employees spent $650,000 in improper credit card purchases.
Likewise, the EPA’s IG reported that some agency’s employees had used their federal charge cards to buy gym memberships for themselves and their family members, as well as lavish dinners.
The Jobs Corps was also flagged by auditors for similar abuse. A handful of workers and students were caught using their cards to pay for personal cell phone bills, trips to the hair salon and shopping sprees.
The spate of stories prompted legislation intended to curb the improper use of government credit cards. The 2012 Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) required agencies to increase oversight of and issue IG reports to Congress on charge-card expenditures each year.
Grassley commented on the forthcoming report, saying he is eager to see the findings and hopes that his measure has helped catch improper payments and prevent future problems.
“I’m interested to see the report and find out more about what’s being done, right and wrong, at DOD to prevent abuse,” Grassley said in a statement.
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