Senators are one step closer to passing a bill that would crack down on abuse of government-issued charge cards and travel cards.


Federal agencies issue charge cards to certain employees to purchase office supplies or other incidentals, or for government-paid travel and related expenses.

But several watchdog and news reports through the years have discovered abuse of the cards at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Postal Service and Tennessee Valley Authority, among others.

A bill passed this week by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would however force agencies to better police the cards and enact stricter penalties — including termination — if workers are found abusing the card program. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration. It passed the Senate in 2009 but was never considered by the House.

“This bill is about accountability,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the bill’s lead sponsor. “The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards. The federal bureaucracy needs to improve the way it manages the use of these cards.”

The bill would require agencies to perform credit checks on card holders and issue restricted cards for employees with bad or no credit to prevent potential misuse. It would also require agencies to maintain a record of each cardholder, conduct period reviews to determine whether workers still need the cards, require mandatory training for cardholders and their managers regarding the program, establish limits on how many cards could be issued and ensure that cards are invalidated when a worker leaves an agency or transfers to a new federal job.

As you can probably tell by now, no such government-wide rules exist, leading to a hodgepodge of policies and uneven enforcement that often triggers those embarrassing news reports about card abuse.

Considering the growing appetite for cost-cutting moves, and the GOP’s focus on finding ways to curtail federal pay and benefits, it seems this bill might have a good shot at final passage.

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