Senators Collins and Carper Want Update on FEMA Purchase Card Accounting, Improper Payments

Washington – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for an update on corrective measures taken to address vulnerabilities with its purchase cards. In a letter to the head of FEMA, Craig Fugate, the Senators cite a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General that revealed weaknesses with purchase card internal controls and highlighted the improper payments at taxpayer expense that can result.

“FEMA needs to implement more effective internal controls of its purchase cards,” said Senator Collins. “While FEMA has improved its disaster response capabilities, safeguarding taxpayer dollars remains to be an area in which the agency must strengthen its system to preempt mistakes, improper payments and outright fraud.”

Said Senator Carper: “As our nation’s emergency response agency, FEMA has the critical responsibility of safeguarding and aiding citizens when disaster strikes. That said, as a federal agency, FEMA also has the responsibility to safeguard our scarce taxpayer dollars. Vulnerabilities in the internal controls for purchase cards leave the agency ripe for waste, fraud and abuse. When we’re facing record-high deficits and tightened budgets, agencies – including FEMA – must do a better job of protecting our nation’s financial resources.”

The text of the letter is below.

February 10, 2012

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate:

The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, released on December 7, 2011, entitled “Major Management Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security,” highlighted the fact that 93 percent of DHS purchase card transactions reviewed by the OIG did not fully comply with OMB internal controls and oversight requirements. A previous OIG report, “Improving FEMA’s Disaster Purchase Card Program,” concluded that, “…internal control issues remain…” within FEMA’s purchase card program. This report also recommended improvements to the purchase card program’s internal controls as a mechanism for reducing improper payments.

As detailed in the 2010 “Improving FEMA’s Disaster Card Purchase Program” report, internal control weaknesses lead to improper purchases and wasted federal tax dollars. Federal tax dollars will continue to be wasted until this situation is fixed.

Please provide an update on actions FEMA has taken to implement recommendations made in the May 2010 report by February 24th, 2012. Also, please describe any actions FEMA has taken in addition to the recommendations of the report, including changes to the data-mining and post-payment audit processes at FEMA to ensure appropriate oversight and controls of the purchase cards are in place.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member
Senator Thomas Carper