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Report: Millions Squandered On Gov't Cards
Old 04-08-2008, 11:26 PM   #1
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Report: Millions Squandered On Gov't Cards

CBS News - Report: Millions Squandered On Gov't Cards

GAO Says Federal Employees Paid For Online Dating, Suits And Lingerie With Gov't Credit Cards

Report: Millions Squandered On Gov't Cards, GAO Says Federal Employees Paid For Online Dating, Suits And Lingerie With Gov't Credit Cards - CBS News

Excerpts from the article.

Among the expenditures cited in the report:

An Agriculture Department employee fraudulently wrote 180 convenience checks for more than $642,000 to a live-in boyfriend over a six-year period. The money was used for gambling, car and mortgage payments, dinners and retail purchases that went unnoticed until USDA's inspector general received a tip from a whistle-blower. The employee, who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and tax fraud charges, was sentenced last year to 21 months in prison and ordered to repay the money.

U.S. Postal Service workers separately billed more than $14,000 to government credit cards for Internet dating services and a dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Orlando, Fla., for 81 people at a cost of $160 each for steaks and crab. The dinner bill also included more than 200 appetizers and more than $3,000 worth of wine and brand-name liquor such as Courvoisier, Belvedere and Johnny Walker Gold.

In the Internet dating case, a postmaster charged $1,100 over 15 months for two online services, including the Ashley Madison Agency. The expenses went unnoticed for more than a year even though he was under internal investigation for viewing pornography on a government computer. The postmaster was eventually told to repay the Internet charges but faced no disciplinary action.

At the Pentagon, four employees purchased $77,700 in clothing and accessories at high-end clothing and sporting goods stores. The spending included more than $45,000 at Brooks Brothers and similar stores for tailor-made suits - $7,000 of which were purchased a week before Christmas. The credit-card holders said the items were for service members working at U.S. embassies with civilian attire. Pentagon rules allow purchases of civilian clothing when performing official duty, but generally only up to $860 per person.

Justice Department and FBI employees charged $11,000 at a Ritz Carlton hotel for coffee and "light" refreshments for 50 to 70 attendees for four days, averaging about $50 per person. Seventy percent of the total conference cost of $15,000 was for the food and beverages, while audiovisual and other support services totaled only about $4,000, or 30 percent of the charges. It was not clear what action, if any, that Justice took in light of the conference expenses, which GAO deemed excessive.

End of excerpts.

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Old 04-09-2008, 08:24 AM   #2
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Old 04-09-2008, 09:09 AM   #3
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They seem to post this story ever year and considering the number of federal employees, it doesnt surprise me that they would find some interesting stories....I would be more concerned if they came back and said that they didnt find anything...
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Old 04-09-2008, 10:02 AM   #4
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Come on they work so hard ! They deserve these things..
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Old 04-09-2008, 10:03 AM   #5
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I am always befuddled when reading stories like that. Other agencies must be much more lax than mine, or maybe these are disgruntled employees on their way out. :confused:

We are specifically instructed as to what we may or may not charge. We have to take a computerized "training" on this topic before being issued a government CC, and periodically while holding one. Each month, supervisors must personally go over all of our employees' government CC bills and sign and date them. Every year or two someone from HQ shows up to interview employees and supervisors about credit card usage, and employees must produce all of these signed and dated CC bills for scrutiny.

If ANYTHING is found on a government CC bill that is a personal expense and not authorized and approved by our agency, we could be subject to some extremely harsh disciplinary measures.

Like I said, I am totally befuddled by stories like this. They sound to me like they were written by space aliens on Mars.
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Old 04-09-2008, 10:24 AM   #6
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I am always befuddled when reading stories like that. Other agencies must be much more lax than mine, or maybe these are disgruntled employees on their way out. :confused:

Like I said, I am totally befuddled by stories like this. They sound to me like they were written by space aliens on Mars.
I suspect that some of it is "high level" employees like the ones at the Ritz Carlton....so have you ever got to stay at the Ritz....
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Old 04-09-2008, 10:37 AM   #7
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Don't get your panties in a twist over this one. The cards they are talking about are billed directly to the employees. The government does not pay the bills and is not responsible for them. The government reimburses employees for expenses within the limits set for per diem. It is perfectly fine for employees to charge more than they will get reimbursed provided the expenses are related to the travel or other business. The complaint here is the employees are charging inappropriate personal items that they are not supposed to use this card for. We had some idiots charge escort services . The employees have to pay for the items but they get the benefit of a no interest card, in many cases with very high limits - that is why the government promises the carriers by contract to police appropriate use. I second Want2retire. We suspended employees for continuing misuse of cards. We fired employees who misused an actual government paid card (very rare offense).
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Old 04-09-2008, 10:39 AM   #8
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Im just thinking Wags has some decent taste in music.
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Old 04-09-2008, 11:04 AM   #9
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The employees have to pay for the items but they get the benefit of a no interest card, in many cases with very high limits - that is why the government promises the carriers by contract to police appropriate use.
Your agency must have pretty lax credit card policies, like ours used to have back in the 1990's (but no longer has).

Even though the CC's are billed to us, we are not permitted to buy ANYTHING with our CC unless it is authorized, and nothing personal is ever authorized. That is at least up to GS-14 level, and probably GS-15 level - - I have no idea what SES people do or don't do. Maybe they are the culprits.
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Old 04-09-2008, 11:07 AM   #10
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I suspect that some of it is "high level" employees like the ones at the Ritz Carlton....so have you ever got to stay at the Ritz....
Does the Fountainbleu at Miami Beach count?

Usually I stay at something along the lines of a Best Western, but sometimes more expensive places when nothing is available at government rates like in Monterey last year.
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Old 04-09-2008, 04:12 PM   #11
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Your agency must have pretty lax credit card policies, like ours used to have back in the 1990's (but no longer has).

Even though the CC's are billed to us, we are not permitted to buy ANYTHING with our CC unless it is authorized, and nothing personal is ever authorized. That is at least up to GS-14 level, and probably GS-15 level - - I have no idea what SES people do or don't do. Maybe they are the culprits.
I am gone three years now but they were not lax. When I talk about spending more than you get reimbursed I mean, for example, dinner. You could by a dinner that costs more than your per diem will pay but you will only get reimbursed at the per diem level. You could also purchase tooth paste or laundry services on an extended stay which might or might not get reimbursed. You would be in trouble if you bought CDs or other personal items. For anything out of normal travel expectations the burden was on the employees to justify why they used the government card.
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Old 04-09-2008, 04:26 PM   #12
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Oh, OK, I misunderstood. Sorry.

On CNN they were talking about personal charges for iPods, personal laptops, expensive lingerie, formal business attire, and that sort of things. Pretty startling to me, and probably to you, too!

And yes, like you mentioned we could be fired for such flagrant misuse. No way would I risk my lifetime medical to buy lingerie and iPods, with 100% probability of being caught within few months.

On the other hand, the news release complains about "racking up bills at casino and luxury hotels", and I personally did that. I attended a meeting at Casino Magic in Biloxi a few years ago. Three of us shared two rooms at the casino hotel at government rates, and spent a couple of very long days in the casino's conference facilities. In the evenings I was too exhausted and had too many notes to go over, to gamble or go out.

For dinner I got the WORST gumbo I have ever had at the hotel snack bar, tasting like spoiled fish soaked in dishwater, but that's another story. Let the good times roll.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:08 PM   #13
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I agree with donheff. This story never explains that the govt probably was never on the hook for any of these charges--the charges were almost certainly the responsibility of the employee.

I strongly resisted the issue of a government travel card, and think the program has been a huge failure. It was better (and far less subject to abuse or allegations of abuse ) when you were allowed to charge things on your own credit card and to simply pay the bill with the $$ from your travel claim. If you didn't want to charge bills on your personal card, then go to the cashier's cage and get a cash advance before traveling. The travel card scam program must have made things easier for somebody, but it wasn't me.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:14 PM   #14
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I strongly resisted the issue of a government travel card, and think the program has been a huge failure. It was better (and far less subject to abuse or allegations of abuse ) when you were allowed to charge things on your own credit card and to simply pay the bill with the $$ from your travel claim. If you didn't want to charge bills on your personal card, then go to the cashier's cage and get a cash advance before traveling. The travel card scam program must have made things easier for somebody, but it wasn't me.
The purpose was to stop issuing cash advances. And many agencies closed their cashier's cages entirely. By shifting the burden to the employee it also forces people to put their vouchers in quickly -- otherwise they have to pay the card out of pocket. It was a big win for management.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:24 PM   #15
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It was a big win for management.
Right. And I think the govt actually gets a kickback, er, um, I mean "reimbursement" based on some of the fees collected by the card company.

Those in DoD forced to use the Defense Travel System (DTS) to book their travel have seen another "improvement" that has made everything far worse. We saved the time of four low-paid travel clerks and incurred hundreds of hours of extra wasted time among higher-paid employees. "But look--we saved money on the travel office!" Dumb
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:43 PM   #16
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I recall travelers whining about the cost of credit cards and the speed of reimbursement. The 'gov issued' (Diner's Club in my day) with a generous grace period was their response to that complaint. If a travel voucher was submitted timely then the traveler had no problem paying the credit card on time.

When employees charged expenses on their own mileage cards some complained that the agency should 'own' the miles. It was a no-win situation.

Granted, some employees violated the terms of the gov card issuance. There should be consequences for that.. take away the card if it was egregious.

For those who commented about hotels at casinos, the agency itself often chooses a location based on travel and facility costs. DOL got bad press when they held a meeting in Los Vegas although it was the least expensive overall. After that they were held in August in St Louis. Nuf said.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:44 PM   #17
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I take back what I said above. I finally got to today's Washington Post and read the article that started this. It looks like GAO was studying abuses of the purchase card. These are cards used by a handful of employees to purchase stuff used by the government. The people cited appeared to have committed real fraud -- one of them is in jail. This is the "rare" catagory I mentioned. I think the article mixes things up because they say 300,000 employees have these cards -but that has to be the travel card. Real purchase cards (paid by the government) are held by a lot less people. To put these cards in perspective I only allowed two in an IT organization with a $120 M budget with 120 feds and 300 contractors. We spent millions every year using the cards - all purchases were reviewed by multiple people. I still worried about the potential for abuse. If the lady who did the primary purchasing had a gambling addiction or something she could have run up some huge bills before we could have stopped her. Sounds like some of the dick heads in the article did just that.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:49 PM   #18
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Don, you're right. The scientists and engineers I work with have travel cards, and I don't think I know anyone with a purchase card except one guy down in the supply room who probably has one. They aren't nearly as common, as you point out.

Brat, our agency didn't even get to choose the location in the casino. The meeting was being held there, and we were required to attend it whether we wanted to or not. It was a cooperative thing involving mostly state and local governments, and we represented our agency. They got a group rate for us that was within govt guidelines. Afterwards it was announced that we weren't approved to attend any more meetings of that group (as if we had asked to go to that one in the first place!). Grrr. Total PITA, and then there was that gumbo...
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Old 04-09-2008, 06:09 PM   #19
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The party that accepted the purchase card should not be reembursed because it was obviously a fraudulent use. They are able to reach into the the casino's account and grab it back. The casino will make sure they aren't accepted again.
Casinos have been known to administer their own brand of justice.
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Old 04-09-2008, 06:30 PM   #20
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Right. And I think the govt actually gets a kickback reimbursement for some fees collected by the card company.

Dumb
It's a rebate...not a kickback.
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