Congress Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Crack Down on Misuse and Abuse of Government Purchase and Travel Cards

WASHINGTON—In case you missed it, yesterday the Senate approved the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse in federal agency travel and purchase card spending.

The Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act, now headed to the president’s desk for signature as part of the 2018 NDAA, would help prevent charge card misuse and abuse by requiring agencies to take a series of steps to strengthen accountability and oversight over purchases made using federal government charge cards.

“Federal agencies have made progress in strengthening financial controls over government travel and purchase cards, but more needs to be done to root out waste and abuse in charge card spending. By helping agencies better track and analyze card charges, we can curb wasteful spending and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely and effectively across the federal government,” Senator Carper said. “This bill will save taxpayer dollars, and it’s a great example of what Democrats and Republicans can accomplish by working together. I thank Senators Grassley and McCaskill for their partnership on this issue.”

“This provision builds on my previous work to establish accountability and rein in misuse of government charge cards,” Senator Grassley said. “There’s no excuse for the lax standards and practices we’ve seen. Government agencies are obligated to safeguard tax dollars and prevent and stop abuse.”

“One of my top priorities in the Senate is making sure that Missourian’s hard-earned taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted,” said Senator McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “I’m glad to have come together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to crack down on federal employees who are using government dollars for their own personal gain.”

The Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act will:

  • Establish Federal-Wide Charge Card Analysis and Oversight. The legislation directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to review its existing database of charge card purchases of federal agencies for patterns of potential misuse. Under existing law, individual agencies must establish certain types of control and oversight over charge card usage, but only the GSA has government-wide data that can reveal patterns agencies might miss on their own. Under this bill, GSA would assist agencies by conducting sophisticated, federal-wide analysis of the data for potential waste and fraud.
  • Help Agencies Share Information and Best Practices. Federal agencies do not routinely share information about the use and abuse of charge cards. As a result, agencies might not learn and/or establish best practices to address spending issues. Under the bill, agencies would share with each other information about fraud schemes, high-risk sellers, and other information that might help prevent charge card abuse and fraud.
  • Support Strategic Sourcing. The sharing and analysis of charge card data helps agencies better leverage federal purchasing power through what is often called “strategic sourcing.” This analysis helps to determine when agencies are purchasing numerous amounts of an item with purchase cards that could be bought in a more cost-effective manner, such as with negotiated discounts.