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Data Reliability

Appendix II: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

that had been granted specific authority over their own purchase card programs, such as the U.S. Postal Service.8

In general, we analyzed purchase card data for merchant category codes and vendor names that were more likely to offer goods, services, or both that are on executive agencies’ restricted/prohibited lists, personal in nature, or of questionable government need. We identified split purchases by extracting multiple purchase transactions made by the same cardholder at the same vendor on the same day. For year-end purchases, we identified transactions from purchase card accounts where year-end activity is high compared to the rest of the year. With respect to convenience checks, we used various criteria, including identifying instances where convenience checks were written to cash or payees not normally associated with procurement needs and where a large number of convenience checks were written to a single payee, among others. We analyzed the banks’ databases for detailed transaction data, whenever available, for accountable property and highly pilferable items.

We then requested and reviewed supporting documentation for over 550 transactions among the thousands we identified. We conducted investigative work, which included additional inquiries and data analysis, when applicable. While we identified fraudulent, improper, and abusive transactions, our work was not designed to identify and we cannot determine the extent of fraudulent, improper, or abusive transactions occurring in the population of governmentwide purchase card transactions.

We assessed the reliability of the data provided by (1) performing various testing of required data elements, (2) reviewing financial statements of the five banks for information about the data and systems that produced them, and (3) interviewing bank officials knowledgeable about the data. In addition, we verified that totals from the databases agreed with the total purchase card activity provided by GSA and published on its Web site, in totality and for selected agencies. We determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our report.

8All U.S. Postal Service purchase acquisitions are excluded from adherence to FAR regulations. Handbook AS-709, Credit Card Policies and Procedures for Local Buying, explains the policies and procedures of the U.S. Postal Service purchase card program.

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GAO-08-333 Governmentwide Purchase Cards

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