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Fixes Lag for Federal Credit Fraud

April 12, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Education Department officials watching for workers' personal purchases on government credit cards overlooked nearly $66,000 worth of goods bought last summer that were not properly accounted for, congressional auditors say.

A new system that has curbed persistent problems with purchase cards and other programs is keeping fraud under control but could be better implemented, according to a General Accounting Office report released Thursday.

"While it's much better than it was, it's still not quite functioning properly," said Linda Calbom, GAO's director of financial management and assurance.

After learning of financial problems during the last three years of the Clinton administration, Education Secretary Rod Paige put new controls in place.

Investigators said the "positive steps"--including requiring supervisors to sign off on each purchase--have not been effectively implemented in many cases.

An agency review last year of purchase card statements found that 20 of 86 statements sampled from July through September did not specify what was purchased.

In those three months, workers charged nearly $1.9 million on department credit cards. GAO investigators found $23,151 in purchases that had no description of what was bought. They estimated that the amount could be as much as $65,817.

Bill Hansen, the Education Department's deputy secretary, said the department is training supervisors to look more closely at purchases and is holding them accountable through regular reviews.

The department is one of several overhauling its credit card system.

The Interior Department is changing its policies and retraining personnel after an audit found that employees used the cards to pay rent, withdraw money at casinos and buy jewelry and furniture.

Investigators have also found that more than 46,000 Defense Department employees defaulted on $62 million in credit card travel expenses through November.

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