A House committee last week unanimously approved the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act, which has already passed the Senate and is soon poised for a full House vote. The measure, originally introduced by Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), is in response to years of watchdog reports detailing the abuse, misuse and lax oversight of government-issued charge cards meant to pay for travel expenses and other small purchases, including office supplies.
Through the years, federal employees have used the cards to purchase kitchen appliances, cruises, to pay gambling expenses and even for tabs at legalized brothels.
At the Tennessee Valley Authority, an investigation found that some employees sought refunds or made balance transfers from TVA-issued cards because of fraudulent transactions — including $20,000 for United Airlines tickets and $2,500 for jewelry — which were the result of identity theft or physical theft of cards.
Similarly at the U.S. Postal Service, a small handful of senior officials used credit cards meant for travel and lodging expenses to buy family members flights to Spain and Italy, purchase Apple computers and make more than 50 purchases at “adult entertainment” stores. A USPS investigation also determined that it had failed to cancel 2,491 credit cards issued to former employees, including 53 who were listed as deceased.
The bill would require federal agencies to periodically review cardholder records, provide regular training for cardholders and their managers and establish policies on the number of cards that can be issued, their maximum credit limits and who specifically is eligible to use the cards. It would also require agencies to invalidate an employee’s card if they quit, retire or transfer.
In an effort to save even more money, the bill would require agencies to directly pay banks when reimbursing employees for travel card purchases to ensure the tickets are paid for and to avoid hefty interest charges. It also directs agencies to seek refunds of unused airline tickets.
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