Government credit cards are apparently used as a slush fund in many agencies. From the slew of GAO reports that have come out in recent months, any investigator that wants to turn up problems just has to look around the use of credit cards.
This time the investigators are GAO and they went into one of the larger agencies, the Department of Defense. In this case, the investigation focused on travel cards.
In DoD, payments for travel cards are made directly to the Bank of America under a governmentwide travel card contract. The centrally billed accounts are used by most DOD services and units for transportation services such as airline and train tickets. Individually billed accounts are used by individual travelers for lodging, rental cars, and other travel expenses.
Most people prefer to fly and travel first class. Unfortunately, if you are a government employee, you usually can’t do that unless you pay for the difference yourself.
At the Department of Defense though, some people appear to have gone in premium or business class on a regular basis. GAO found that the Department of Defense spent almost $124 million on about 68,000 premium class tickets during fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
Civilian supervisors, managers, and executives and senior military officers accounted for almost 50 percent of the premium class transactions, and for 27 of the 28 most frequent premium class travelers.
GAO estimated that 72 percent of DOD’s fiscal year 2001 and 2002 premium class travel was not properly authorized, and 73 percent was not properly justified.
And flying with the rich and famous was not considered a big deal. The agency didn’t keep accurate and complete data on the extent of premium class travel and didn’t monitor it. And, since no one seemed to care, some officials preferred to ask forgiveness, if necessary, than asking permission prior to taking off.