When the Office of Inspector General conducted an audit on the EPA earlier this year, it was just a standard procedure. The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 was set up specifically for this purpose, namely to check out agencies like the EPA to make sure that the government purchasing cards were being used for legitimate work expenses directly linked to the work done by the EPA employees.
Turns out that this wasn’t, in fact, what they were always being used for. Having selected 80 transactions from the charge card listings because they were outside of what would normally show up on a credit card of this nature, the OIG found that 75 of these 80 charges were “prohibited, improper, or erroneous”. Those 72 charges totaled $79,259.
That’s $79,259 of my tax money and yours. Turns out that some EPA employees feel that you and I should pay for for their gym membership. Actually it’s worse than that, you and I aren’t just paying for them to go to the gym, in some cases we’re paying for their family members to go to the gym as well.
While it’s nice that our government employees want to make sure they and their families stay healthy the rest of us have to pay for our own membership or not go at all.
To be fair, it isn’t as bad as it actually looks. First of all, the 80 charges that the OIG looked at weren’t randomly sampled. They were looked at because they fell outside of the norm of what should show up on a government purchasing card. Additionally, of the 72 charges that were found to be prohibited, improper, or erroneous, 28 were because the users couldn’t actually verify that they had received the items and/or services that they had charged on the card (This doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t receive them, just that they couldn’t prove that they had). Another 24 of the 80 were not supposed to be allowed because they hadn’t been given approval prior to making the purchase (Again, this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have gotten approval, just that they didn’t follow protocol).
Regardless, the EPA is promising to make some changes to provide better oversight in the future. It only stands to reason that if you give people credit cards without closely monitoring the expenses charged on them, some people are gong to misuse them and find ways to justify charging personal expenses on them (You can just hear some of those employees saying “I have to stay fit to do my job properly… That’s a valid expense!”).
The results of the “investigation” were published in a 31-page document that you can download or view online here.