Holding the Government Accountable

Senate Unanimously Passes Legislation to Improve Federal Charge Card Spending

Last week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to curb misuse of government charge cards and prevent fraud against the federal government.

Federal purchase and travel cards continue to represent a significant source of improper and fraudulent payments. While some progress has been made by federal agencies in recent years, more can and should be done to address these problems. Inspectors General across the federal government continue to report on substantial problems ranging from questionable payments to blatant misuse, including spending sprees at casinos and adult entertainment establishments.

Last month, the Project On Government Oversight voiced support for the Senate bill, the Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act of 2017 (S. 1099). The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), would establish important requirements to more effectively identify and prevent improper payments for both purchase and travel cards. Building upon the earlier and successful Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-194), S. 1099 would put into law new recommendations by both the Government Accountability Office and federal Inspectors General. Additionally, the bill would make federal agencies and employees less vulnerable to identity theft.

Notably, the new legislation expands government-wide use of modern data analytics to spot waste and fraud, requires more consistent sharing among federal agencies of best practices for determining high-risk transactions, and moves oversight efforts toward the prevention of improper payments, rather than simply chasing errors and fraud after payments are made.

The Senate bill now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives.