In an astounding example of government waste, a Washington, D.C., TV station uncovered $20 billion in micro-purchases made by government employees in 2013.
Because federal accounting rules state that any government credit card purchases of $3,000 or less do not have to be itemized, so-called micro-purchases appear to be fast becoming some public workers’ favorite perk.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security racked up a staggering $30,000 at Starbucks alone, according to The Washington Post, which documented the findings uncovered by NBC Washington’s Freedom of Information Act request. Agency employees also purchased gym memberships and clothing from JC Penny.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Sy Lee said the purchases were valid.
“These purchases were made for various reasons, following standard purchase card policy and guidance,” Lee said in a statement to The Post. “The Department of Homeland Security is required to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulation when using appropriated funds to purchase supplies or services on behalf of the federal government. To ensure accountability, all purchase card transactions are approved in accordance with DHS purchase card policy.”
In an interview with NBC Washington investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane, Bill Miller, former inspector general for the U.S. General Services Administration, called the government-issued credit cards a “great tool that create real efficiencies” when used properly.
“But you can’t substitute that for intelligent purchasing. Something you know is going to come up you can anticipate and do some intelligent planning,” Miller said. “I don’t know the agency’s needs or contingencies, but going to Starbucks seems like a really hard sell.”
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