In the last few years, the federal government has come under intense scrutiny for employee abuse of agency-issued credit cards. The cards are intended for business expenses, but have reportedly been used by federal workers to buy personal items like luxury goods and travel on taxpayers’ dime.
Federal auditors have issued numerous reports detailing the widespread abuse of the cards at a spate of federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.
But now an investigation by NBC-4 Washington sheds new light on the way the government uses these charge cards and its somewhat secretive record keeping practices.
According to the report, if federal employees use their charge cards on purchases of $3,000 or less, they are kept confidential and can only be accessed by federal auditors or through a Freedom of Information Act request. This year alone, agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Defense, among others, spent about $20 billion in so-called “micropurchases.”
Through Freedom of Information Act requests, NBC-4 found that, in one example, employees at the Department of Homeland Security spent $30,000 at Starbucks last year-$10,000 of which was spent at one store in California.
“When you have $10,000 being spent at one Starbucks by DHS employees in one city in six months, someone is abusing the purchasing permission that we have given them,” Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chair of a House Oversight subcommittee said at a hearing last month.
The auditors also told the committee that the charge cards had been used for personal items like a shopping spree at JC Penney and personal gym memberships.
Still, they said that most of “micropurchases” “seemed to be legitimate” still they said they would continue reviewing their use. “We will be looking at all of those purchase. And as part of our audit ... we will be looking at the types of purchases in which coffee shops jump out at you,” Anne Richards, an agency auditor, said, according to NBC Washington.
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