DHS oversight of purchase cards has 'significant gaps,' IG says

The Homeland Security Department needs to strengthen its oversight and review of purchase card transactions, says the Office of Inspector General in a new report.

The Homeland Security Department has significant gaps in its controls over employee purchase cards, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General.

While the cards offer efficiency and convenience for some procurements, the internal controls appeared to be lax, the auditors said.

“Ninety-three percent of the purchase card transactions we reviewed did not fully comply with the Office of Management and Budget’s requirements, and the department’s purchase card manual and components’ guidance were incomplete and inconsistent,” the IG’s report of Aug. 29 stated. “As a result, the department cannot be sure that purchase cards are always used for their intended purpose.”

In fiscal 2010, DHS employees made about 1.2 million purchases valued at about $514 million for goods and services using purchase cards. The purchase cards are considered an efficient means of procurement for micropurchases below $3,000 apiece.

DHS generally had an adequate framework for internal controls for the purchase card program, but work is needed on implementation, including its post-payment auditing, the report states.

According to the review, 15 of 15 transactions performed by Customs and Border Protection did not meet all OMB requirements, as well as 12 of 15 transactions at Citizenship and Immigration Services and 14 of 15 transactions at the Transportation Security Administration.

The report made three recommendations for improvements, and DHS officials agreed with the recommendations.