Small purchases can add up. That’s certainly the case with the government’s purchase card program, which provides charge cards to more than 350 federal agencies, organizations, and Native American tribal governments.
The program is meant to streamline the payment process for small purchases, minimize paperwork, and generally simplify the administrative effort associated with procuring goods and services under certain thresholds. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, the General Services Administration (GSA) reported that agency cardholders made over 20 million purchase card transactions totaling more than $19 billion. The U.S. Postal Service’s share: nearly 650,000, totaling over $311 million.
That’s a lot of receipts and invoices. Are they all in order?
In October of last year, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), an independent federal entity representing 73 federal inspectors general, launched a government-wide audit to analyze and review purchase card data to determine any potential risks in the program. The USPS OIG, a CIGIE member, joined 22 other participating inspectors general reviewing their respective agencies. This large body of work is still in process.
Recently we released a report on our look at a sampling of USPS transactions during FY 2016, and, for the most part, the results show the transactions were legal, proper, and correct, with a few exceptions.
Specifically, of the 100 transactions we reviewed totaling almost $156,000 in purchases, we found 19 totaling less than $12,000 that didn’t comply with USPS policies. In 15 of those cases, cardholders failed to submit purchase requests in the requisitioning and approval system; in the other four, totaling just under $500, supporting documentation was inaccurate or incomplete. The issues: USPS had no requirement for approving officials to request and review cardholders’ supporting documentation when approving their statements, and the program lacked an electronic system for filing supporting documentation. We recommended fixes to those issues.
Do you know of other ways to improve the government’s purchase card program? What other types of government-wide audits should CIGIE consider performing?