One Postal Service employee used his government travel card at adult entertainment establishments more than 50 times. Another paid for an Apple computer and his mortgage. Three others purchased airfare tickets (including tickets to Spain and Italy) for family and friends.
That’s all according to a Postal Service Inspector General report issued last week on non-compliance with travel policies. The travel cards are actually placed in the employees names, so it isn’t clear whether the government paid for the expenditures in question. But regulations do clearly state that “employees may not use their official government travel card for personal business,” according to the report.
The report said that Postal Service employees “did not comply with prescribed travel policies resulting in over $600,000 in excessive travel costs for lodging and airfare in FYs 2009 and 2010.” If the Postal Service took action to “curtail employee noncompliance with travel polices” it could “realize an additional $600,000 in savings over the next 2 years, or $300,000 annually.”
According to the report, the Postal Service “did not cancel 2,491 credit cards issued to former employees, including 53 employees listed as deceased in employee records. At the time of our audit, there was more than $37 million in open credit associated with cards of former employees.”
It’s poor timing for the Postal Service, which is planning to cut about $2 billion in costs this year but still forecasts a $7 billion loss after losing a record $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010, according to the Washington Post. The Postal Service also warned this week that it is most likely going to run out of money by the end of the fiscal year.
Lawmakers are paying attention to the abuses, according to the Washington Post.
“It is very frustrating that an organization that was $8.5 billion in the hole last year, has not adopted a frugal culture,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said. “The proper controls are not in place to either prevent or uncover frequent credit card abuses.”
Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) said in a statement that he’d “told the new postmaster general and his predecessor that he and other top postal executives need to do their part as well.”
“If they are going to ask postal employees and customers to make sacrifices to save the Postal Service, then the postal leadership certainly has a responsibility to set a good example when it comes to frugality and basic financial management,” Carper said. “In this case, they have clearly failed.”
Late Update: Gerry McKiernan of USPS tells TPM that “no Postal Service money was expended for any of these charges.”
“The employees may have violated policy by using a government credit card for personal use but they paid the charges, not the Postal Service,” McKiernan wrote. “And, while we’re appreciative of the additional $600,000 savings in travel costs we might realize, according to the IG, it should be noted that between ‘09 and ‘10, the Postal Service reduced its travel budget by $20 million.”