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Congress enacted the Travel and Transportation Reform Act (TTRA), also known as Public Law 105-264, in 1998. This Act mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card.
All federal employees were required to use a travel charge card to pay for official government travel expenses. According to Hatch (2010), the travel cards were intended to reduce travel costs and improve oversight of employee travel expenditures, but audits of the government travel card program at a number of agencies found evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse due to a lack of adequate internal controls (Hatch, 2010, p. 1). Hatch reported that the dollar volume of travel card transactions increased 103% from $4.39 billion in FY1999 to $8.93 billion in FY2009 (Hatch, p. 1).
In addition, government audits revealed that employees used their travel cards to purchase items or services for their personal use, and unauthorized premium-class accommodations (Hatch, p. 4). Furthermore, many agencies failed to ensure that they claimed reimbursement for unused airline tickets, or that their travel card invoices were paid in a timely manner (Hatch, p. 4). These weaknesses in the agency travel card program cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars annually. Consequently, Congress introduced the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act (GCCAPA) of 2009.
The GCCAPA was a bill introduced in both the House (H.R. 2189) and the Senate (S. 942) on April 30, 2009. The purpose of the bill was to prevent the abuse of government charge cards. The Senate bill was passed in October 2009 by unanimous consent and currently both versions of the bill are under consideration in the House.
Following is the Congressional Research Service Summary of the Senate bill (S. 942: Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2009) found on www.govtrack.us.
The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2009 -
Requires each executive agency, except for the Department of Defense (DOD), to establish and maintain specified safeguards and internal controls for official purchase cards and convenience checks, including measures to ensure that:
- records are kept of each card holder and applicable transaction limits;
- rebates and refunds based on prompt payment, sales volume, or other agency actions on card accounts are reviewed for accuracy;
- periodic reviews are performed to determine whether each cardholder needs a card;
- effective systems, techniques, and technologies are used to prevent or identify fraudulent purchases; and
- steps are taken to recover the cost of erroneous, improper, or illegal purchases made with a purchase card or convenience check through salary offsets. Establishes similar requirements for DOD.
· Requires the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review existing guidance and prescribe additional guidance governing the implementation of the safeguards and internal controls.
Requires each agency head to provide for appropriate adverse personnel actions or other punishment, including dismissal, in cases where employees violate agency policies implementing the guidance or make improper, erroneous, or illegal purchases.
Requires the guidance to direct each agency head with more than $10 million in purchase card spending annually and each Inspector General to jointly report to the Director on such violations semiannually.
Lists actions that each agency Inspector General should take, including to conduct periodic assessments of agency purchase card or convenience check programs to identify and analyze risks of illegal, improper, or erroneous purchases and payments in order to develop a plan for periodic audits of transactions.
Amends the Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998 to require each agency to establish safeguards and internal controls over federal contractor-issued travel charge cards to ensure the proper, efficient, and effective use of such cards.
Requires agencies that have employees who use a travel charge card that is billed directly to the U.S. government to establish and maintain specified internal control activities, including requirements to:
- compare items submitted on an employee’s travel voucher with items paid for using a centrally billed account on any related travel;
- dispute unallowable and erroneous charges and track disputed transactions to ensure appropriate resolution; and
- submit requests to servicing airlines for refunds for fully or partially unused tickets and to track unused tickets to ensure appropriate resolution.
According to Hatch, if enacted, the GCCAPA would address some of the weaknesses that auditors have identified in agency travel card programs. However, Hatch added that transaction monitoring by approving officials may be one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of fraud, because travel card misuse is often linked to poor transaction monitoring by approving officials (Hatch, p. 11).
Due to the susceptibility of the government travel card program to fraud and abuse, agencies must ensure that adequate internal controls are placed on their programs and consistently enforced. If enacted, the GCCAPA will add more specific oversight requirements for agency travel card programs.
By: Lorie Henderson
Hatch, Garrett. (March 15, 2010). Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Agency Travel Card Programs.
Congressional Research Service, www.crs.gov, R40580.