recommendations. GSA stated that it was not within the scope of its authority to issue guidance and reminders encouraging agencies to document independent receipt and acceptance of items purchased with a government purchase card, and improving accountability over accountable and pilferable items purchased with government purchase cards, including sensitive and pilferable property. GSA stated that receipt and acceptance and property accountability are the responsibilities of the agencies, and that our recommendations should be modified to reflect this. GSA partially concurred with our recommendation that travelers be reminded to reduce per diem if a traveler is provided with government meals, stating that it would issue guidance in this matter, but arguing that the per diem issue was not specific to purchase cards. We disagree with GSA’s assessments of its authority and reiterate support for our recommendations. We agree with GSA that the problems we identified with property accountability and receipt and acceptance go beyond the bounds of strictly purchase card issues. However, our work over the last several years has also identified substantial problems with property accountability and independent receipt and acceptance of goods and services bought with purchase cards; these problems are inherent to the flexibility provided by the purchase card program. The fact that governmentwide policies in these areas do not currently exist demonstrates that GSA needs to formulate guidance that is consistent and available to every agency. We believe that these recommendations are consistent with GSA’s mandate as the overall manager for the purchase card program. As an agency with overall responsibility for the purchase card program, GSA should assume a proactive approach in identifying— and helping agencies address—challenges to agencies’ internal control systems that have arisen partly as a result of purchase card use. As its response indicates, OMB is taking a proactive approach to purchase card management, and may be in a position to help GSA overcome the perceived lack of authority. See the Agency Comments and Our Evaluation section of this report for a more detailed discussion of the agency comments. We have reprinted the OMB and GSA written comments in appendixes III and IV, respectively.
GSA administers the federal government’s SmartPay® purchase card program, which has been in existence since the late 1980s. The purchase card program was created as a way for agencies to streamline federal acquisition processes by providing a low-cost, efficient vehicle for obtaining goods and services directly from vendors. The purchase card can be used for simplified acquisitions, including micropurchases, as well as to place orders and make payments on contract activities. The FAR
GAO-08-333 Governmentwide Purchase Cards