Your Tax Dollars Spent on Casino Chips
|September 29, 2003||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Your Tax Dollars Spent on Casino Chips
Unfortunately, the out-of-control situation being described is not about the government of some Third World dictatorship, but the federal government of the USA.
Probe Finds Interior Dept. Employees Used Gov’t Credit Cards for Casino, Jewelry
Interior Department employees used government-issued credit cards to pay their rent, withdraw money at casinos and buy jewelry and furniture, an audit found.
Almost three-quarters of the department’s 79,000 workers have government credit cards, and the agency’s inspector general found myriad problems with use and oversight. Some 1,116 former Interior employees still had active charge card accounts, although the report found no evidence of activity on them.
“The department and its bureaus do not have sufficient controls in place to minimize abuse of the charge card,” the report said. Some reviews of purchases “were done inadequately or in a perfunctory matter, some were not done on a regular basis, and some were not done at all.”
Interior spokesman John Wright said Tuesday the department is working to solve the problems identified in the audit, which was completed in late December. Training has begun to help managers spot abuse, and those who fail to recognize it could face disciplinary action.
“We take these credit card issues very seriously and are working aggressively to improve our guidelines to address this matter,” Wright said.
The audit was completed a year after the Clinton administration gave the Interior Department a “Hammer Award” for good management of its credit card system. The award was part of then-Vice President Al Gore’s “reinventing government” savings campaign.
Governmentwide, 398,000 employees have permission to make business purchases on credit cards. Those transactions totaled $13.7 billion last year, according to the General Services Administration. GSA manages the government’s credit card program, although direct oversight is up to individual departments.
Another $4.7 billion was spent by 2.1 million federal employees with government-issued credit cards that can be used only for travel expenses, said Sue McIver, the GSA’s director of services acquisition.
McIver said the government has become better at identifying credit card abuse. “I believe that any system out there has weaknesses to it,” McIver said. “But because so much of this is electronic now, we are able to identify [misuse] quickly and take appropriate action.” [The Progress Report interjects -- obviously, as this audit found, they do NOT identify misuse and do NOT take appropriate action.]
Auditors found cases where employees used cards to pay telephone bills and rent, to have their cars repaired and to buy household furnishings and jewelry. They also found instances where charge cards were used to get wire transfer cash advances in some cases thousands of dollars from casinos.
The investigation did not identify individual employees, nor did it say whether the employees ever repaid the government or were disciplined.
In response, the agency plans departmentwide training for cardholders, starting this month. The aim is to make sure they know what purchases are proper. [The Progress Report interjects -- sorry, but no one ever thought buying jewelry or casino chips was "proper." In the USA, we're supposed to have law enforcement, not training sessions, for people who break the law.]
Congressional investigators found this year that more than 46,000 Defense Department employees had defaulted on $62 million in travel expenses through last November. The employees had charged the travel and were to have paid the bills after the department reimbursed them but did not. A Pentagon “task force” is “studying” how to tighten control over its 1.6 million card users.
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