Report: EPA Credit Cards Used for Gift Cards, Hotels, Gyms

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 10:16 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Lack of oversight at the Environmental Protection Agency has led to employees using government-issued credit cards for inappropriate purchases such as gym memberships, restaurants, hotel stays, and gift cards, the latest inspector general's report found.

The government watchdog group looked at a sample of 80 transactions from fiscal year 2012 and found that almost 52 percent of them did not comply with federal guidelines, according to the EPA's Office of Inspector General in a report released March 4.

"Of $152,602 in transactions we sampled, we found $79,254 of prohibited, improper, and erroneous purchases were not detected," the report states.

The inspector general's office is putting the blame on the cardholders, as well as the EPA for failing to provide proper oversight over employees that are given government-issued credit cards.

The EPA's Contracts Management Manual lays out what government employees may use the credit cards for, as well as the approval process for making such purchases.

EPA employees are supposed to keep a log of all their purchases, obtain approval from the agency before making any purchase, and have a third party verify that the item purchased was received.

"We found a number of transactions where cardholders, approving officials, the purchase card team, and program offices were not providing oversight," the inspector general wrote.

Both the cardholder and the approving official are supposed to review each purchase to make sure it complies with EPA rules and regulations. However, it was found that "the approving official frequently did not provide the required oversight."

The federal agency had 1,370 active cardholders in 2012 making a total of $29 million in purchases.

This is not the first inspector general's report to reveal abuses by cardholders.

There were also credit-card abuse problems reported in 2011 — leading lawmakers to pass the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act in 2012, requiring regular reviews of purchase-card programs to track any improper purchases.

The EPA has its own guidelines as well.

Alisha Johnson, EPA spokeswoman, said the agency has begun to take the appropriate steps to correct the problem, The Washington Post reports.

The EPA is "implementing improved standard-operating procedures, establishing increased requirements for mandatory transactional documentation and internal audit requirements, and ensuring increased accountability for misuse of purchase cards," Johnson said.

The EPA is required to provide a written response to the inspector general's office in 60 days that includes its plan of action to correct the problem.

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