USDA Wasted $6.2 Million on Cars It Doesn’t Use

Audit finds $1.2 million in questionable fuel purchases

September 11, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent $6.2 million on cars the agency does not need, according to a new audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Due to poor monitoring of vehicle logs the USDA has thousands of cars that are underused. The audit also identified $1.2 million in questionable fuel purchases by employees.

"In this audit, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Office of Procurement and Property Management (OPPM) did not adequately structure the Department’s fleet charge card program or provide USDA agencies with sufficient guidance to administer it," the audit said.

The USDA issues fleet cards to purchase fuel for vehicles used for food safety inspections, agricultural research, fire suppression, and law enforcement. The OIG determined that 1,133 vehicles were hardly used.

The audit also identified 5,703 vehicles that were driven less than 5,000 miles over the course of the year.

"Had USDA retained accurate log files and performed the minimum annual use tests, it could have achieved potential savings of approximately $6.2 million for vehicles that may not have been necessary," the OIG said.

Based on a sample of the vehicles it identified, the OIG estimated approximately half were unnecessary to the agency. Getting rid of the 3,076 underused vehicles could save the USDA approximately $2,000 per vehicle, or $6,152,000.

The audit blamed the agency for "not performing vehicle use studies or maintaining vehicle mileage logs to identify underused vehicles." OPPM did not require vehicle logs to be "reviewed and approved by supervisors."

"The structure of the program was impaired, in part, because of the large number of cardholders assigned to certain card monitors, or Local Fleet Program Coordinators (LFPC), and other supervisors who did not have the right tools to detect potential improper fleet card use," the audit said. In some cases, managers were overseeing as many as 912 fleet cards.

The OIG also found abuse of fleet cards on excessive gasoline purchases, finding 11,151 questionable transactions totaling about $1.2 million.

The OIG flagged cards that were used for four or more gasoline purchases on the same day and transactions that were double the average daily amount spent on the card.

Lisa M. Wilusz, director of the USDA’s Office of Procurement and Property Management, agreed with the OIG’s recommendations that better oversight was needed for the fleet card program.

She said the agency is now using a 6,100-mile per year baseline to identify vehicles the USDA does not need.