Oh Yeah, Don't You Just Love Our Government  

AzCdKayle 62T
24 posts
7/20/2006 4:54 pm

Last Read:
7/20/2006 5:03 pm

Oh Yeah, Don't You Just Love Our Government


I just love the way our government spends and waste our tax money. here is part two of the GAO report on Post Katrina and Rita.

Homeland Security Department Is Accused of Credit Card Misuse


By ERIC LIPTON
Published: July 19, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 18 – Flat-bottomed rescue boats at double the retail price, $68,500 worth of unused dog booties, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of computers that somehow disappeared and a $227 beer brewing kit.

These are just a few of the questionable purchases that Congressional auditors have found by digging through half a year of credit card records from the Homeland Security Department, including records for the months immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year.

The audit, by the Government Accountability Office, which is due to be released Wednesday, concluded that the credit card misuse could probably have been avoided had the department completed a long-planned rulebook for its more than 9,000 employees who spent $420 million last year using government-issued credit cards.

Instead, “due to a lack of leadership” at the department, the draft manual has never been finished, creating accounting weaknesses that “leave D.H.S. highly vulnerable to fraudulent, improper and abusive activity,” the audit says.

The result is that in the five months examined, the investigators found that 45 percent of purchases did not have appropriate preauthorization by supervisors and that 63 percent did not include documentation stating whether the goods or services had been received.

Congressional leaders, who requested the investigation, said they were once again disappointed at the lack of oversight of taxpayer dollars at the Homeland Security Department, which has already been blamed for up to $2 billion of waste and fraud related to the hurricanes last year.

“It seems no matter where we look at Homeland Security, we find a pattern of waste, fraud and abuse,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and the chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

One employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the department, spent $7,790 on a 63-inch plasma monitor, which sat for six months, unused, in its original carton.

Another FEMA employee spent $68,442 on the 2,000 dog boots, which were intended to protect the paws of search dogs on rescue operations; the boots ended up in a FEMA warehouse and have not been used.

A Coast Guard cardholder bought the beer brewing kit, which officials explained was “a quality product for official parties attended by cadets, dignitaries and other guests,” but which the auditors called “abusive and questionable.”

The small flat-bottomed boats, the audit said, were bought from a Texas company for a total of $208,000. That was about twice the retail rate for the boats, which were supposed to be used in the rescue and recovery effort in New Orleans.

Auditors also found that officials from Customs and Border Protection spent $2,492 on rain jackets for use at a firing range, even though the firing range is usually closed when it rains. And Secret Service officers spent $7,000 on iPods, which the agency explained were intended to serve as data storage devices, an explanation the auditors found unconvincing.


Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the department, said it would soon be issuing credit card rules, which he agreed were needed to avoid some of the problems.

“We are still a young department, a little over three years old,” Mr. Knocke said, adding that the total value of the purchases questioned by the auditors represented only a tiny share of the amount charged on the government cards.

He also said that the department had found many of the more than 100 computers bought with the credit cards that investigators said had disappeared.

“More resources have been spent on investigating these anomalies than the amount of resources actually lost,” he said.

Brewing kit, plasma TV among government Katrina purchases


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Government "purchase cards" were used to buy a beer brewing kit, an $8,000 63-inch Samsung plasma screen television, hundreds of laptop computers that are now missing, and 20 flat-bottom boats at greatly inflated prices, according to a government audit of spending associated with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

The new audit, also done by the Government Accountability Office, {GAO}, looks at purchases made by DHS employees during a five-month period beginning in June 2005 using "SmartPay" purchase cards, intended to give government employees a more flexible and efficient way to purchase goods and services. Typically, government employees can make purchases up to $2,500 with the cards, but Congress increased the threshold to $250,000 for Katrina-related purchases.

But the GAO's Gregory D. Kutz will testify to a Senate committee Wednesday that weak controls at DHS exposed the department to "fraud, waste, and abuse," according to prepared testimony.

A previous government audit showed that about $1 billion FEMA gave to Hurricane Katrina and Rita claimants were fraudulent.

WHY DOES DHS NEED A $227 BEER BREWING KIT? Flat-bottomed rescue boats at double the retail price, $68,500 worth of unused dog booties, hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of computers that somehow disappeared and a $227 beer brewing kit.

These are just a few of the questionable purchases that Congressional auditors have found by digging through half a year of credit card records from the Homeland Security Department, including records for the months immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year.

The audit, by the Government Accountability Office, which is due to be released Wednesday, concluded that the credit card misuse could probably have been avoided had the department completed a long-planned rulebook for its more than 9,000 employees who spent $420 million last year using government-issued credit cards. New York Times: Homeland Security Department Is Accused of Credit Card Misuse.

DHS updates status of those missing laptops


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just two hours before they were to receive a public tongue-lashing on Capitol Hill for losing scores of laptop computers, a dozen flat-bottom boats and other gear during Hurricane Katrina recovery operations, Department of Homeland Security officials Wednesday said they had located many of the missing items.

But federal auditors remained skeptical, saying DHS needs to "touch" the objects to assure they had been located, and not to rely on "paper" assurances.

As noted earlier, a GAO audit concluded that weak management practices at DHS had led to widespread misuse of purchase cards, which were supposed to give government employees a more efficient way to purchase goods and services.

Auditors cited a variety of apparent misuses of the cards. In many cases, DHS could not locate items purchased with the cards, suggesting the items were lost, stolen or misappropriated, the GAO said. Among the lost items were 107 of 200 laptop computers, 22 printers and 12 flat-bottom boats.

But shortly before a Senate hearing on the matter, DHS said it had found some of the missing equipment.

"I do want to note that at 7:52 this morning, DHS informed the committee that it had miraculously found the missing boats and some of the missing
computers," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform. DHS said it had located some 74 of the 107 missing computers.

Auditors also voiced skepticism. "I am a little taken back, quite honestly," GAO Special Agent John Ryan told the committee, noting that earlier efforts to locate the items were fruitless. "I would ask them to touch the item and make sure they're really testing the serial number."

I love getting these email alerts and seeing what goes on in our nations capitol.

Kayle



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