Pentagon IG’s Audit Reveals Employees Used Federal Credit Cards for Gambling
An audit of Pentagon purchases has found that Defense Department employees have used US government credit cards for gambling and “adult entertainment”, according to a news report in Politico. The Pentagon Inspector General called for the audit, which uncovered a significant amount of federal money was used for gambling activities.
The Pentagon IG believes the unauthorized use of credit cards may have been to keep spouses from learning about the charges. To avoid detection by their significant others, people with Defense Department travel cards made the transactions while on business trips for the US government. The Inspector General is set to publish his findings in the coming weeks.
Workers Might Have Paid Debts
A Pentagon official who spoke to Politico said that the federal government might not have paid for the charged transactions. Both civilian and military employees of the Pentagon pay their own bills, then submit receipts to receive reimbursements.
Given the sensitive nature of the activities involved in those transactions and the fact most Pentagon workers would not want Defense Department knowing about those activities, it is unlikely those receipts would be submitted for reimbursement. Thus, the employees likely charge the cards to avoid detection by the spouse on their personal credit cards, then pay that part of the Pentagon credit card bill themselves each month.
Putting the “Sin” in Sin City
The charges were made in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Those charges included payments made at casinos in the gambling destinations, along with escort services and “other adults activities“.
What the Audit Focused On
The IG’s audit focused on the credit card system itself and not on individuals. Since the audit did not single out particular members of the Armed Services, it is not expected that anyone will face disciplinary actions from the misconduct.
Such activities are considered misconduct, as in such activities definitely violates Pentagon policies. The quoted official in the article said the Defense Department “will be compelled to remind employees that the practice violates policy–and possibly the law.”
Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act
In its article, Politico wrote, “The official (who was not named) said that the employees may have used the government cards for gambling and escort services in order to shield the charges from spouses.”
In 2012, the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act was passed to halt abuses like the ones which were discovered in the Pentagon Inspector General’s audit. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, proposed the law in the US Congress.
Sen. Grassley Quote
When Politico contacted Sen. Grassley for a comment on the credit card scandal, he said, “I’m interested to see the report and find out more about what’s being done, right and wrong, at DOD to prevent abuse. What I hope is that my reforms that became law have been implemented well and that agencies and auditors are using the reforms to catch problems.”
While the numbers fluctuate from one estimate to the next, some experts believe banned purchases cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars per year. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office issued a report which suggested that abuse of government-issue credit cards had been on the rise. Apparently, the GAO found that people were using such cards to buy membership at online dating sites, while also charging expensive wine and other luxuries while out on the town.
Only Partial Success in Policing It
Despite the new law, federal auditors speaking before Congress in 2014 said that the problem continues to exist. When the Labor Department performed an audit, it found members of the Job Corps had charged over $100,000 on federal credit card for such things as haircuts, cell phone service, and expensive clothing.
Last year, the Bureau of Land Management faced a similar spending scandal when it was learned that employees had spent $800,000 in federal money on banned items and activities. Three Land Management Bureau members were fired, while two others resigned in disgrace.
Such credit card usage brings into question the good sense of military and civilian employees of the Defense Department. While it might be a bad thing for one’s wife to learn an officer enjoys gambling, it seems rather wild that the same officer would fear consequences from their wife about gambling more than they would from the United States government about graft and corruption.