is crucial to engendering taxpayers’ confidence in the purchase card program—as we stated above, our previous audits and our current work showed that ineffective receipt and acceptance of goods and services acquired with the purchase card is a widespread, governmentwide problem. Furthermore, OMB indicated that it was extremely concerned about purchase card abuse and supported our recommendations designed to improve internal controls over the program. We believe that GSA can adopt a proactive approach and coordinate with OMB to obtain its support to overcome the perceived obstacles. In our opinion, the purchase card program will continue to expose the federal government—and the taxpayers—to fraud, waste, and abuse, unless GSA helps facilitate a governmentwide solution.
Similarly, GSA argued that it did not have the authority to take the recommended actions with respect to property accountability. As with independent receipt and acceptance, our work continues to demonstrate that accountability for property acquired with purchase cards is ineffective across many agencies. For example, the purchase card program provides cardholders the ability to acquire sensitive and pilferable items directly from vendors. This process results in cardholders bypassing the normal property receipt and acceptance procedures, which increases the risk that the item will not be recorded in an agency’s list of accountable property. GSA needs to recognize this risk (and other inherent risks) created by purchase card use and proactively work with agencies to improve the accountability of property acquired with government purchase cards. We also believe that our recommendations fully take into account the extent of GSA’s authority—to that end, our recommendation called for GSA to provide agencies guidance and reminders to improve internal controls over asset accountability. Even though GSA already issued guidance related to the proper use of the purchase card program through online training, refresher courses, and annual conferences, GSA should go a step further and address control weaknesses related to property accountability and receipt and acceptance. GSA’s position contrasted sharply with OMB, which, in its comments on our report, expressed support for aggressive and effective controls over purchase cards. We believe that GSA can take advantage of the diverse tools already at its disposal, such as online training and annual conferences, with which GSA could easily remind cardholders and approving officials to pay particular attention to governmentwide issues, including asset accountability and independent receipt and acceptance of goods and services identified in this report.
Overall, our recommendations are focused on GSA taking a proactive approach to improve the success of the purchase card program. Last year,
GAO-08-333 Governmentwide Purchase Cards