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Feds’ Travel Spending Abuses Mount, Worst Since 2012’s Lavish Las Vegas Spree

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Four years after the General Services Administration’s Inspector General (IG) exposed senior GSA bureaucrats infamously living it up with a champagne-soaked Las Vegas employee conference, the agency is more vulnerable to such waste and fraud, according to a new report by the watchdog.

“Limitations in GSA’s process to detect travel card misuse and abuse could increase the agency’s risk of making payments on illegal, improper and erroneous travel card transactions,” the memo said.

GSA’s purchase card program in fiscal year 2015 ran a “high” risk for waste, fraud and abuse, and the travel card program ran a “moderate” risk, compared with 2013, when the IG dubbed purchase cards a “medium” risk and travel cards a “low” risk. Combined, the two programs cost taxpayers about $35 million each last year.

As the federal government’s housekeeping agency, GSA hit the headlines in April 2012 when the IG found employees spent more than $800,000 in Las Vegas on expensive hotels, lavish meals and conference “yearbooks.” Senior executive Jeffrey Neely was fired and sentenced to prison in the scandal.

Travel spending plunged during the next year, going from $17 million in 2011 to $4.2 million in 2013. GSA also adopted the federal-wide Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 and agency-wide policies to prevent history from repeating itself.

But GSA travel card spending is back up and agency managers aren’t enforcing procedures that came out of reforms meant to prevent waste and fraud like the Las Vegas conference.

GSA officials, for example, aren’t following key requirements identified in the IG’s first charge card report covering 2013, like making sure transactions have all necessary receipts and other documentation.

They also aren’t following up on outstanding “questionable” expenditures as required, contributing to the risk for waste and fraud, the IG said. “Absent follow-up activities, GSA faces increased risk of paying for illegal, improper or erroneous travel card transactions.”

When the IG’s investigators asked GSA officials about 945 questionable government credit card transaction in 2015, the agency never responded on 262, or more than a fourth of the red-flagged items.

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