Recently introduced legislation is designed to prevent purchase card abuse within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Veterans Affairs Purchase Card Misuse Mitigation Act (H.R. 5215) is being introduced largely in response to a 2015 whistleblower report which revealed that tens of millions of dollars in purchase card purchases had been unauthorized. According to the report, the prices for many legitimate purchases appeared excessive and too many VA employees had purchase cards and supervision over their use was lacking.
A recent VA Inspector General’s report also found that the VA overpaid for prosthetics to the tune of $256 million and that 61% of the purchase card transactions it audited were improper payments and unauthorized commitments.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs also notes that the VA’s purchase card spending is roughly $4 billion annually and will likely increase as the individual transaction limit rises from $3,500 to $10,000 later this year as a result of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, thus further increasing the potential for abuse.
The bill is sponsored by Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI) who is also the Chairman of the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. It is also being introduced along with House VA Committee members Mike Bost (R-IL), Neal Dunn (R-FL) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY).
“This vitally important legislation not only punishes bad actors at the VA who misuse funds, but also will prevent future misuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Bost. “We can’t always predict bad behavior, but we can put in place systems that lessen taxpayer exposure to it.”
About the Bill
The legislation would require the VA Secretary to revoke the purchase card from any employee who is found to have knowingly misused a purchase card or approval authority. This safeguard would prevent further misuse of government funds while existing penalties, ranging from suspension to demotion to removal, are considered for the wrongdoer.
According to the text of the bill, misuse of purchase cards is defined as:
- Splitting purchases
- Exceeding applicable purchase card limits or purchase thresholds
- Purchasing any unauthorized item
- Using a purchase card without being an authorized purchase card holder
- Violating ethics standards