Issues

Pentagon Paid Employees’ Personal Bills

Watchdog faults DoD management for failing to prevent, punish misuse of government charge cards at casinos, strip clubs

Pentagon
AP

The Pentagon reimbursed employees for personal transactions made on government-issued charge cards, the agency’s inspector general found.

Managers at the Department of Defense failed to prevent nearly two dozen employees from receiving $8,544 in reimbursements for personal uses of their government-issued travel cards, including ATM fees incurred at casinos, the Pentagon inspector general said in a Tuesday report.

The inspector general first reported in May 2015 that officials had improperly used government travel cards at casinos and strip clubs, spending more than $1 million over the course of a year ending in June 2014. The latest audit, which was requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee, aimed to determine if Pentagon employees who used their cards for personal use were reimbursed for the charges and whether appropriate disciplinary action had been taken against them.

Pentagon officials did not take appropriate action when they were notified of employees misusing their travel cards by the inspector general in the first probe, according to the new report. Pentagon managers did not adequately review employees flagged for possible card misuse and, in some cases, did not review them at all.

Officials also did not review employees’ transaction histories to determine if they had misused their cards in the past. A Navy civilian employee in one case had used his or her card to charge nearly $30,000 at casinos and other locations in addition to nearly $2,500 in improper charges discovered by the inspector general in 2014. The transactions had not been flagged because managers did not examine the employee’s card history for misuse.

Additionally, Pentagon officials failed to take steps to eliminate misuse of travel cards, including monitoring expenses of employees who had been cited for card misuse or restricting their travel credit.

"The inspector general’s report makes clear that the Department of Defense has failed to take serious action to curb egregious abuse of government travel cards and hold those responsible accountable," Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement. "It’s long past time for DoD leadership to impose stricter oversight of this program to identify improper transactions immediately, take necessary disciplinary action, and ensure no taxpayer dollars are wasted."

Pentagon officials also did not review travel vouchers to determine if employees flagged for card misuse by the inspector general had been reimbursed for personal charges. Of the 29 employees reviewed in the latest audit, 22 were improperly reimbursed for 131 vouchers totaling $8,544 during the review period. In one case, an Air Force civilian employee was reimbursed for ATM fees that were used during personal trips to casinos.

"The cardholders were directly reimbursed, indirectly may have been reimbursed, or both for their personal use of the travel card. Those improper overpayments included lodging and meals for personal travel days; unsupported mileage reimbursements; and ATM fee reimbursement for misuse," the inspector general wrote.

Officials did not move quickly to recover these overpayments when they were discovered.

Pentagon employees could still misuse travel cards during the period after the release of the inspector general’s first audit because of management failings. The Pentagon also had less money to spend on "legitimate travel expenses" because of payments made to employees who used their cards for personal use, the watchdog concluded.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.

In the audit released last year, the inspector general determined that Defense Department employees likely used their government-issued cards to complete 4,437 transactions, totaling $952,258, at casinos and 900 transactions, totaling $96,576, at "adult entertainment establishments" between July 2013 and June 2014.