NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 10, 2008

Federal employees charged millions of dollars for Internet dating, tailor-made suits, lingerie, lavish dinners and other questionable expenses to their government credit cards over a 15-month period, congressional auditors say.

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined spending controls across the federal government following reports of credit-card abuse at departments including Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

The review of card spending at more than a dozen departments from 2005 to 2006 found:

  • Nearly 41 percent of roughly $14 billion in credit-card purchases, whether legitimate or questionable, did not follow procedure.
  • For purchases over $2,500, nearly half -- or 48 percent -- were unauthorized or improperly received.

The GAO study comes amid increasing scrutiny of purchase cards, which are used by 300,000 federal employees and are directly payable by the U.S. government.

Among the expenditures cited in the report:

  • An Agriculture Department employee fraudulently wrote 180 convenience checks for more than $642,000 to a live-in boyfriend over a six-year period.
  • U.S. Postal Service workers separately billed more than $14,000 to government credit cards for Internet dating services and a dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Orlando, for 81 people at a cost of $160 each for steaks and crab.
  • At the Pentagon, four employees purchased $77,700 in clothing and accessories at high-end clothing and sporting goods stores.
  • Justice Department and FBI employees charged $11,000 at a Ritz Carlton hotel for coffee and "light" refreshments for 50 to 70 attendees for four days, averaging about $50 per person.
  • At the State Department, one credit-card holder bought $360 worth of women's lingerie at Seduccion Boutique for use during jungle training by trainees of a drug enforcement program in Ecuador.

Source: Associated Press, "GAO: Millions Wasted On Federal Credit Cards," USA Today, April 8, 2008.

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