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threshold.30 Abusive purchases are those where the conduct of a government organization, program, activity, or function fell short of societal expectations of prudent behavior. We found examples of abusive purchases where the cardholder (1) purchased goods or services at an excessive cost (e.g., gold plated) or (2) purchased an item for which government need was questionable. Table 5 identifies examples of improper and abusive purchases.

Table 5: Examples of Improper and Abusive Purchases

Case 1

Description of activity

Tire store Multiple impr

charges for unnecessary services



Forest Service, USDA

Total amount


Additional facts

From July 2005 to March 2006, the subcontractor Superior 24 Hour charged a USDA purchase card account 91 times for work performed to install new tires on USDA vehicles.

Our review of supporting documentation provided by the agency showed that the charges in 2006 were not authorized. Further, USDA could not validate whether the transactions in 2005 were authorized.

Neither the cardholder nor the approving official discovered the improper charges until March 2006, 9 months after the subcontractor first charged the account.

Because bank policy requires that unauthorized charges be disputed within 60 days of their occurrence, the cardholder could only recover $39,000 of the unauthorized charges through the dispute process.


Toyota dealer Violation of policy

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA


At the request of two FAS offices, the cardholder purchased a Land Cruiser and a Toyota Sienna at the end of the fiscal year directly from a Toyota dealer, without obtaining the required waiver from GSA.

Improper use of convenience checks

Split purchase Excessive

The cardholder circumvented agency policy, split the purchase of the Land Cruiser by writing three convenience checks, and used year-end funds.

As a result of the use of convenience checks, USDA had to pay convenience check fees of over $1,000.

30We defined split purchases as multiple purchase transactions made by the same cardholder at the same vendor on the same day. From July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, purchases that met this definition, and which appeared to have been transacted to circumvent the micropurchase threshold, totaled over $600 million.

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GAO-08-333 Governmentwide Purchase Cards

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