Purchase Cards: Navy is Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse but Is Taking Action to Resolve Control Weaknesses

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Defense (DOD) is promoting departmentwide use of purchase cards for obtaining goods and services. It reported that for the year ended September 30, 2001, purchase cards were used by 230,000 cardholders to make 10.7 million transactions valued at more than $6.1 billion. The benefits of using purchase cards versus traditional contracting and payment processes are lower transaction processing costs and less red tape for both the government and the vendor community. Although GAO supports the purchase card program concept, it is important that ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. September 27, 2002.

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Defense (DOD) is promoting departmentwide use of purchase cards for obtaining goods and services. It reported that for the year ended September 30, 2001, purchase cards were used by 230,000 cardholders to make 10.7 million transactions valued at more than $6.1 billion. The benefits of using purchase cards versus traditional contracting and payment processes are lower transaction processing costs and less red tape for both the government and the vendor community. Although GAO supports the purchase card program concept, it is important that agencies have adequate internal controls in place to protect the government from fraud, waste, and abuse. A weak overall control environment and breakdowns in key internal controls leave the Navy vulnerable to potentially fraudulent, improper, and abusive purchases. In response to GAO's previous findings, DOD and Navy have begun improving the control environment over the purchase card program. However, further improvements are needed to achieve an effective control environment. GAO determined that the Navy did not provide cardholders, approving officials, and agency program coordinators with sufficient human capital resources--time and training--to effectively perform oversight and manage the program. The weaknesses in the Navy's purchase card control environment at the units audited led to a significant breakdown in key control activities in fiscal year 2001. GAO determined that (1) cardholders did not screen for the availability of goods from required sources, (2) cardholders did not document that someone independent of the cardholder received and accepted the goods and services, (3) many Navy units did not maintain accountability over pilferable property acquired with the purchase card, and (4) cardholders did not reconcile monthly purchase card statements to supporting documentation and approving officials did not review the cardholders' reconciled bills prior to payment certification. The weak control environment and breakdown in key internal controls contributed to potentially fraudulent, improper, and abusive or questionable transactions that went undetected at units in all three Navy commands and the Marine Corps base GAO audited. GAO's site-specific and Navy-wide data mining transactions reviews identified other potentially fraudulent transactions including the purchase of computers, cell phones, food, cameras, power tools, televisions, personal digital assistants, clothing, and stereos. GAO also identified abusive and questionable transactions at all three Navy commands and the Marine Corps base audited and in GAO's Navy-wide data mining. The purchase card transactions that GAO considered to be questionable generally did not include and explanation or advance authorization that would justify these purchases or permit a determination of whether the purchases were improper or abusive."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • September 27, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Purchase Cards: Navy is Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse but Is Taking Action to Resolve Control Weaknesses, report, September 27, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc291542/: accessed December 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.