Issues

Audit: DHS Employees Used Gov’t Charge Card to Spend $31,413 at Starbucks

Inspector General finds agency at risk for illegal and improper purchases

Starbucks
AP

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees used a government charge card to make purchases totaling $31,413 at Starbucks, according to an audit by the DHS Inspector General (IG).

The IG conducted the audit to see whether DHS implemented quality internal controls for the usage of the government charge card to prevent illegal, improper, or erroneous purchases.

The IG found that DHS did not have sufficient oversight over these purchases and as a result a moderate level of risk remains that DHS will not prevent illegal, improper or erroneous purchases in the future. From fiscal year 2012 to 2014, DHS made transactions totaling $400 million per year using this government card.

Transactions made with the government purchase card are subject to the rules in the DHS Purchase Card Manual. Problems arose when transactions did not comply with the manual because they either lacked documentation such as receipts or approval by a Department coordinator.

Nearly half, or 49 percent, of the sampled transactions reviewed by the IG, valued at $206,903, did not comply with at least one of the requirements set forth in the purchase card manual.

While some of the transactions that DHS employees made at Starbucks were "supported and allowable" according to DHS rules, 24 percent of the Starbucks transactions lacked documentation and 10 purchases were deemed fraudulent.

Other fraudulent purchases included a government charge card purchase for $417 worth of computer equipment that was not associated with the employee’s official travel.

Another employee withdrew more than $1,300 cash 10 days before his scheduled departure for official travel, which is against the manual’s rules.

According to the IG, the strictest penalty for misuse of the government charge card is the loss of the card. "Without stricter penalties in place, there is little disincentive to prevent employees from using the travel card inappropriately," the IG said.