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Government Geologist Tried To Pay His Grad School Tuition With A Taxpayer-Funded Credit Card

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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A researcher employed by the U.S. Geological Survey allegedly tried to use multiple government-issued credit cards to pay his graduate school tuition at the Colorado School of Mines, according to government investigators.

The unnamed employee put $12,466.67 of government funds — spread over several charge cards — into a credit account at the School of Mines where he was pursuing a doctorate degree, the Office of the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of the Interior said in a report Monday. (RELATED: This Federal Employee Used A Gov’t Credit Card To Make Car Payments)

The employee denied that he was going to use the prepaid credit for tuition, and he eventually got a fellowship that covered his classroom costs. Investigators, however, “found emails between the research geologist and a lab official that indicated the research geologist attempted to use the funds on deposit at the lab to pay for his tuition,” the IG said in a summary of its investigation.

Putting government money into the credit account itself violates government spending regulations, which prohibit spending government funds on anything “without a bona fide need,” the IG report says.

The geological researcher may also have violated regulations that prohibits government workers from spending “currently available fiscal funds for services rendered in next fiscal year.”

The federal government doesn’t have an established system to track fraud on charge cards many agencies use, according to a Government Accountability Office report last May. (RELATED: Feds Spend Billions With Government Credit Cards That Nobody Tracks)

Agencies are increasingly using government-issued credit cards for small purchases in order to avoid the slow and complex government contracting process. Across all federal agencies, approximately 261,000 employees spent $19 billion with government credit cards in fiscal year 2015, an increase from $17.1 billion in 2014 when 263,000 employees had credit cards.

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