The U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) headquarters improperly used government purchasing cards to buy pens, coins, televisions, ATVs and a $3,147 door, an Defense Department Inspector General report said this week.
The Inspector General report reviewed 6,934 purchase card transactions between July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009 worth a total of $7.9 million. A sampling of 120 of those transactions found 10 which were inappropriate. Another 8 of the 120 transactions sampled, valued at $38,081, were “purchases of sensitive or pilferable materials that program personnel should have recorded in property record systems.”
“As a result, the USCENTCOM wasted funds by procuring prohibited items and by splitting purchases that did not receive the benefit of contract competition,” the report stated. “It also risked financial loss of materials through inadequate property accountability.”
Some of the cardholders made multiple purchases for a single item to avoid the $3,000 dollar purchase limit on the procurement cards.
In one case, a cardholder based out of MacDill Air Force Base requested 900 Command coins and bought 500 of them from a U.S. vendor for $2,350 (under the $3,000 limit). But eight days later he got another 400 identical coins for $1,880 from an
overseas vendor. The total came in at $4,230, which exceeded the micropurchase limit of $3,000. The unnamed cardholder told investigators he wasn’t happy with the coins made in the U.S. so he ordered additional coins from the foreign vendor.
Another cardholder purchased 25 clocks and 40 pens as gifts for important visitors to the base. These gifts were legitimately purchased using appropriate funds, but they totaled over the $3,000 dollar limit. Instead of using a different method of purchase, the cardholder split the purchase into a $1,500 and $1,615 transaction both executed on the same day. “This split procurement transaction was an inappropriate use of the purchase card and a clear violation of established regulations against split procurements,” the report noted. The investigators found five total split purchases.
Yet another CENTCOM cardholder purchased a $2,547 door for an office suite, than minutes later tacked on a $600 purchase for expedited shipping, which also broke the $3,000 limit.
Other cardholders didn’t properly document the reason for their purchases. One cardholder spent $2,157 on three televisions at the local installation’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service. The approving officer couldn’t locate the documentation when the inspectors visited, but provided it after the visit and said the TVs were for the new commander’s office.
CENTCOM personnel did not ensure property bought on the cards was properly recorded in their records, the report found, adding that “Property book records are to include all materials considered pilferable or easily resalable on the open market. Examples of such assets include cell phones, digital cameras, fax machines, personal digital assistants, copiers, and printers.
The report said that eight cardholders’ transactions, valued at $38,081, were for property that should have been recorded on accountability records.
“These assets were sensitive, pilferable, and easily resalable or divertible to personal use,” the report said. “The cardholders who acquired them and their approving officials failed to ensure that the assets were recorded on property accountability records.”
Some of the items not properly recorded included: cigar boxes; a multimedia projector; global positioning devices; and a television. They also didn’t keep track of two Kawasaki Mules, which inspectors also said were not properly labeled as government vehicles.
The Air Force Chief of Staff said the Air Force “does not consider these Mules as vehicles and so we can’t enter them into the Air Force’s formal vehicle authorization and accountability systems (which are the systems that we use to record and maintain accountability of all rolling stock that the Air Force provides and considers vehicles, since the Air Force is our Executive Agent).”
Additional reporting by Alex Sciuto.