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Project on Government Oversight

Taxpayers are Victims of Continued Government Charge Card Abuse

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May 28, 2009

A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) highlights long-standing systemic weaknesses and mismanagement in federal credit card spending.

CRS’s report details abuses in the federal government travel card program that are costing the government and taxpayers “millions of dollars annually.” Travel cards are used by government officials for airline, hotel, and related travel expenses. CRS looked at Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Inspector General (IG) travel card reports, and found that:

  • Improper or unauthorized charges included $3,700 for laser eye surgery, reimbursement of nearly $10,000 for tickets that an official didn’t purchase, a first-class trip to Hawaii, and numerous upgrades to premium-class accommodations.
  • Agencies failed to recover millions of dollars in unused tickets – the Department of Defense had $100 million in unused tickets from 1997 to 2003.
  • Delinquent travel card payments prevented the government from receiving maximum potential rebates from card vendors.
  • Travel card spending increased from $4.39 million in FY 1999 to $8.28 million in FY 2008.

“A private travel agency would be out of business running this kind of operation,” declared Scott Amey, POGO’s General Counsel. “This report summarizes problems with individual transactions and, more importantly, with government agencies that aren’t safeguarding taxpayer dollars. Immediate improvements are needed, including improved oversight of all transactions, increased penalties for misuse, and enhanced processes to take full advantage of the benefits that travel cards were expected to bring.”

Legislation is pending in the Senate (S. 942) and House (H.R. 2189) that will add taxpayer protections for government travel cards and purchase cards (used for supplies and services).  

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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