The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

What’s In Your Wallet? Free Goodies Courtesy of Taxpayers

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


In an audit of federal employees’ use of credit cards, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found some shocking charges with a debatable relationship to necessary costs.  For example, during more than 15 consecutive months between 2004 and 2006, a U.S. postmaster charged $1,100 to two Internet dating services, and faced no disciplinary action for the fraudulent transactions.  For nearly six years, a Department of Agriculture employee charged more than $642,000 to her government account, covering expenses ranging from car loans to gambling. 

At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, two 60-gigabyte iPods were purchased for official data storage; GAO discovered that the iPods had been engraved on the back with the requestor’s and agency’s names and had been primarily used to store personal music and videos.  The United States Postal Service treated 81 conference employees to a $160 per person dinner, spending more than $3,000 on alcoholic beverages, resulting in a $13,000 tab.

The GAO found that 41 percent of credit card transactions were either not properly authorized or lacked evidence that the goods or services were received by an independent party.  In purchases exceeding $2,500, the percentage of inappropriate charges rose to 48 percent.  Audited agencies were unable to account for 458 of 1,058 charged items; the value of these missed items was an estimated $1.8 million, out of more than $2.7 million tested.

The GAO made 13 recommendations for improving internal controls and strengthening oversight for federal purchase cards.  While the Office of Management and Budget agreed with the GAO’s proposals, the General Services Administration only partially agreed, claiming much of the suggested action was out of its scope of authority.  Without implementation, this issue promises to be a continuing problem.  While a solution may be unclear, one thing remains evident:  federal employees have expensive tastes – especially when taxpayers are footing the bill.

-- Katelynn Eckert

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